Wheels in mo­tion to give needy West Aus­tralians a life­line

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Afloat - HE­LEN HUTCHEON

‘‘THE peo­ple of Western Australia have whole­heart­edly sup­ported Clas­sic In­ter­na­tional Cruises since we based a ship in Fre­man­tle in 2004 for an an­nual ex­tended sea­son,’’ says the cruise line’s Aus­tralian man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, Grant Hunter.

‘‘We are keen to put some­thing back into the WA com­mu­nity by help­ing Wheels for Hope.’’

The char­ity, a di­vi­sion of the Western Australia Mo­tor In­dus­try Foun­da­tion, as­sists fam­i­lies and in­di­vid­u­als who have a dis­abil­ity and can’t af­ford spe­cial ve­hi­cles that are fit­ted for wheel­chairs.

‘‘We re­tain own­er­ship of the ve­hi­cle, so we pay for ev­ery­thing, like reg­is­tra­tion, in­sur­ance, ser­vice and main­te­nance,’’ the WA Mo­tor In­dus­try Foun­da­tion’s di­rec­tor of de­vel­op­ment, Robyn Cole­man, says. ‘‘Mo­bil­ity should be a right, not a priv­i­lege.’’

Cole­man ex­plains that re­quests for ve­hi­cles come in al­most daily and gives ex­am­ples of peo­ple who have re­cently ben­e­fited from Wheels of Hope — one an older man, the vic­tim of an ac­ci­dent, and the other a young fam­ily with a se­verely hand­i­capped child. The man had been found un­con­scious at the base of a crane; he is in a mo­torised wheel­chair and needs con­stant care.

‘ ‘ We pre­sented him with a ve­hi­cle so that his wife could take him on out­ings af­ter he had been house­bound for some years. The very young fam­ily, with a fiveyear-old daugh­ter, has a two-yearold son with cere­bral palsy, who is blind and has in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties,’’ Cole­man says.

Life was one long round of med­i­cal and re­me­dial treat­ments by public trans­port un­til Wheels for Hope gave the mother an air­con­di­tioned ve­hi­cle with a wheel­chair hoist. ‘‘We draw on the great spirit of Western Australia’s au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try to do what we do,’’ Cole­man says. ‘‘The in­dus­try gives us great ser­vic­ing and good pric­ing. It also re­ceived $1.6 mil- lion in the 2011 state bud­get.’’

‘ ‘ This is great news,’’ Mo­tor Trade As­so­ci­a­tion of WA chief ex­ec­u­tive Stephen Moir said when the bud­get was handed down. He said the gov­ern­ment fund­ing would sig­nif­i­cantly bol­ster the work of the foun­da­tion, which was es­tab­lished in 2007, and had pre­vi­ously been solely re­liant on the sup­port of the WA mo­tor­ing in­dus­try and char­i­ta­ble do­na­tions.

It also re­lies heav­ily on the sup­port of peo­ple such as Grant Hunter and his Por­tuguese-based ship­ping com­pany.

Ear­lier this year a lunch was held on board the 600-pas­sen­ger Athena in Fre­man­tle, which raised $6000 for Wheels for Hope.

‘‘We charged $100 for tick­ets to the lunch and held a silent auc­tion,’’ Cole­man says. ‘‘ Items for auc­tion in­cluded ev­ery­thing from wine packs, jew­ellery, an orig­i­nal paint­ing and a gor­geous scarf to a Wil­low Tree sculp­ture.’’

Wheels for Hope re­cip­i­ents Aaron and Ryan, 13- year- old twins who suf­fer from leukodys­tro­phy, came with their mother, Mandy, and full- time carer, Denise.

Cap­tain Pe­dro Montes Pinto in­vited them to the bridge and spent an hour ex­plain­ing the work­ings of the ship; ap­par­ently the lads still can’t stop smil­ing.

Athena departs Fre­man­tle on April 14 on a 40-night re­po­si­tion- ing voy­age to Bri­tain via South Africa. The 16,144gt ship departs Mar­seille on Novem­ber 12 to re­turn to Fre­man­tle, again via Italy, Al­ba­nia, Croa­tia, Mon­tene­gro, Port Said, Jor­dan, Oman, Malaysia and Sin­ga­pore. It ar­rives in Fre­man­tle on De­cem­ber 18 to op­er­ate Clas­sic In­ter­na­tional Cruises’ ninth con­sec­u­tive sea­son, which runs un­til April 8 next year.

Hunter has promised Cole­man that an­other gala fundrais­ing lunch for Wheels for Hope will be held on board the ship he de­scribes as ‘‘a niche prod­uct for Aus­tralians seek­ing a clas­sic cruise ex­pe­ri­ence’’. wheels­forhope.org.au clas­sicintcruises.com.

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