In March, Mossman Community Support Services hosted a Bollywood Nights Fundraising event to raise money for free, publicly available Sand Cruisers at their Community Centre. Sand Cruisers are specially designed wheelchairs that provide easy access to beaches for people living with physical mobility concerns.
Heather Taylor, Mossman’s Centre Manager explained how the idea came about when their Community Centre’s Disability Support Service was contacted by someone living with paraplegia. The person was visiting Tropical North Queensland on holiday and wanted a support worker to assist them with swimming at the beach.
“As a paraplegic, this person did not have the use of their legs. The current beach chair that’s available to the community up here only allows a certain amount of beach access, needing support workers to carry a person into the water. Due to the risks to the potential client and our support workers, we were unable to assist.”
“The next morning, we approached each other, each of us saying it just didn’t feel right that we have some of the most beautiful beaches in Australia and we can’t make it accessible to all who want to enjoy it. We had each looked up beach wheelchairs that allowed for safe swimming straight from the chair into the water and back again and that’s where the decision to raise money for the purchase of Sand Cruisers came about.”
The idea of a Bollywood-themed fundraiser night was then created, planned and implemented by Erica, the Mossman’s Community Development Officer, and Sid, an Indian Chef who volunteers for their community kitchen. The event, like most held at Mossman Community Centre, was built on the collaborative efforts of passionate team members and volunteers. Heather highlighted how the community came together, contributing their time, resources and artistic talents to the overall success of the event.
“Many volunteered with cooking in the kitchen on the night and all our staff volunteered their time to help in set up, serving, clearing on the night as well as cleaning and packing away the next day.
There was plenty of behind the scenes work of ticket allocation and sales, audio and visual, pick-up and delivery of props.”
“The night was amazing with many people embracing the theme, dressing up and taking part in the activities throughout the night including belly dancing. The room was given great atmosphere by hundreds of fairy lights (installed by the Mossman Men’s Shed) along with the incredible Indian inspired décor designed by the Muruku Art Group, led by Jeannie, our art facilitator volunteer. The entrance to the hall was adorned with a beautiful arch created from palm fronds and banana leaves, created by the Resilience Garden Community group, who also designed our stunning table settings.”
The colourful night of dining and dancing saw $4,500 raised to go towards the purchase of the Sand Cruisers. This was added to $1000 their Centre raised at a trivia event last year and an incredible $2000 anonymous donation. Mossman Community Support Services is now at $7,500 of their $10,000 goal needed to buy the Sand Cruisers and allow more people to experience swimming at the local beaches.
Heather shared a great story from the fundraiser, which highlighted the power of community connection when the event was interrupted by a storm taking out the town’s power.
“One anecdote I would like to share is about the power of people and our amazing community. Unfortunately, about 30 minutes into food service a storm knocked the power out to the entire town, leaving the event in near darkness. Rather than expressing upset or abandoning the event, the guests rallied together to save the night. One table of guests, who were all staff from the local 5 star resort, Silky Oaks Rainforest Lodge, jumped into the kitchen and immediately helped ensure the food service continued with no hiccups. This saw the cooking, plating, and food service going being managed and rescued by some of the very best in the business, despite them being there as paying guests. Some of the local belly dancers (who came to perform for us) kept spirits high by leading the guests in belly dancing lessons and approximately 15 guests stayed back to help staff and volunteers clean up, all with smiles on their faces. It was such an inspiring moment to see our dinner guests get their hands dirty for the overall wellbeing of their community, truly remarkable!”
These sorts of events typify the incredible work of Neighbourhood and Community Centres. Heather and her team saw a need in their community and worked to create an innovative and engaging event that connected community, showcased local resident’s culture and raised money to ensure everyone has access to experience their local environments.
Thank you to Heather and the team at Mossman Community Support Services for your care, commitment, work and sharing your inspiring story.
Written By: Taylor Bast
Published: May 2023