Wheels in motion to give needy West Australians a lifeline
‘‘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.