Sup­port for the Red Frogs

The Cobram Courier - - NEWS - By Patrick Tansey

While the word ‘‘schoolies’’ is com­monly as­so­ci­ated with a bunch of teenagers let­ting their hair down to cel­e­brate the end of their time at se­condary school, there is a group be­hind the scenes help­ing young party-go­ers in need.

Those peo­ple are the Red Frogs and they play a vi­tal role across the coun­try each Novem­ber.

This year, four lo­cal res­i­dents — Bev Fisher, Emily Ryan, An­nette Mus­tica and Chris More­head from Co­bram River­side Church — ven­tured to By­ron Bay to cook for the Red Frogs.

The crew was drafted af­ter the Red Frogs con­tacted the church for help.

The church re­ceived sub­stan­tial sup­port from lo­cal busi­nesses, in­clud­ing Haynes Butch­ery in Tocumwal which pro­vided meat, av­o­ca­dos from the Big Straw­berry, olive oil from Rich Glenn Es­tate, as well as pota­toes and onions from KAF’s Fruit Sup­ply.

Red Frogs started in 1997, when founder Andy Gour­ley, a youth pas­tor at the time, went to the Schoolies week on the Gold Coast with his skate­board­ing mates.

Mr Gour­ley saw a need for a des­ig­nated sober per­son at the mas­sive par­ties and so Red Frogs were born.

The name came about be­cause each year vol­un­teers hand out red frog Allen’s lol­lies.

In many ways, the frogs act as guardian an­gels for the scores of young adults who at­tend the week-long par­ty­ing bo­nanza — many of whom are trav­el­ling in­de­pen­dently for the first time.

The com­bi­na­tion of al­co­hol, drugs and life in­ex­pe­ri­ence jammed to­gether can cre­ate dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions and that’s ex­actly where the Red Frogs come into play.

They are peace­mak­ers, a shoul­der to cry on and a friend in times of need for peo­ple tak­ing part in Schoolies.

Mrs Mus­tica, who en­joyed her first Schoolies ex­pe­ri­ence, has a strong fam­ily con­nec­tion to the vol­un­teer group.

Her son Hay­den is a lo­ca­tion leader at By­ron Bay and her daugh­ter Han­nah was a zone leader in Torquay this year.

She said the Red Frogs were in­valu­able in what could be a hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment at times.

‘‘They’re al­most like the first port of call where the kids will ring them, some­times be­fore the po­lice or am­bu­lance be­cause they are wor­ried about get­ting into trou­ble,’’ Mrs Mus­tica said.

‘‘Once a call is made to the Red Frogs, they will then de­cide what emer­gency ser­vice needs to at­tend if re­quired. They’re al­most like a mid­dle man be­tween the kids and the emer­gency ser­vices.’’

Mrs Mus­tica said it was in­cred­i­bly heart­en­ing to see a group of young peo­ple (who had paid for their own ac­com­mo­da­tion) help com­plete strangers.

‘‘It was re­ally amaz­ing to see all these young adults there just to serve the kids and have no judge­ment of them. I was in awe of what they were do­ing,’’ she said.

‘‘In By­ron Bay for ex­am­ple, be­cause the main drag is long, of­ten the Red Frogs would be walk­ing close to 15 km a night just to en­sure the Schoolies got home safely. That kind of says it al,l I think.’’

Mrs Mus­tica said the whole ex­pe­ri­ence painted a pos­i­tive pic­ture in her mind that Aus­tralia’s fu­ture was in good hands.

‘‘When I looked around and saw 85 young adults that we were cook­ing for, I thought ‘Aus­tralia’s in a pretty good place if these are the type of young adults we have com­ing through the ranks’.

‘‘It’s a fan­tas­tic ini­tia­tive.’’

Happy cooks: Bev Fisher, An­nette Mus­tica, Emily Ryan and Chris More­head vol­un­teered by cook­ing food for the 85 Red Frogs vol­un­teers in By­ron Bay.

Great idea: Red Frogs founder Andy Gour­ley and By­ron Bay lo­ca­tion leader Hay­den Mus­tica.

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