Chopper Chat - April 2016

Tue 12 Apr 2016 -- nathan


31 March may end the tax year, but it also marked the start of an epic swim challenge organised by a group of business professionals. As this edition of Chopper Chat goes to print, 13 ocean swimmers will have completed a gruelling “Chopper Swim Challenge” event across the Waitemata Harbour (either as individuals or in teams) to raise funds for our service.  

Westpac’s Olaf Adam hatched the idea in mid 2015, after becoming hooked on ocean swimming. Together with work colleagues Michael Buck and Dean Madsen, they organised the 20km swim commencing at Waiheke Island and ending in Mechanics Bay. Their combined fundraising goal: $20,000 or $1,000 for every km swum.

“Waiheke Island is a fitting start,” Olaf says, “Like many off shore areas, the community relies heavily on air ambulance services. ARHT completed 232 missions there last year with its resident population of almost 10,000 people.”

All three men are no strangers to fundraising for the helicopters. They are regular supporters of the Westpac Annual Chopper Appeal in May. “We’ve shaken buckets, been involved in quiz nights, golf challenges,” Olaf says, “Dean took part in Westpac’s Bike For Chopper event in 2006, which saw two teams of cyclists cover the entire length of the country. He rode from Kaitaia to Wellington: a distance of 1,100km over 12 days.”

The group decided to swim in March while water temperatures were warmer but they hope that people will continue supporting them via their online fundraising page well into May’s Chopper Appeal Month, now their goal has been achieved. Michael likens every 10km swum to, “Running a marathon.” “It’s a huge effort but a great achievement. A 20km swim takes five to eight hours, depending on swim speed and conditions, so the mental and physical challenges are very real.”   

The three men will be joined by another ten swimmers who are no lightweights in terms of distance swimming. Pictured from left to right are Jeroen Went, Michael Buck, Mark Lenaarts, Natalie Dobson, Jillian Walker, Mike Cochrane, Stuart Whitney, Olaf Adam and Dean Madsen. (Axel Wohlfarth, Donal Barry, Rosie Sharman and Brent Foster aren’t pictured). Mike Cochrane recently swam the length of Lake Taupo – a staggering 40km in distance. Axel Wohlfarth is the winner of multiple 10km swim events and other New Zealand Ocean swims.

“Everybody has a story to tell,” says Michael Buck who recently completed the 20km Perth to Rottnest Island channel swim. He made the crossing in a time of 4hr 50mins placing second overall. “Completing a solid swim challenge in our own back yard is really special,” he says.

You can support the team’s efforts by visiting: and making an online donation.




This new feature celebrates some of the wonderful people from our community who go the extra mile to support our rescue helicopter service. Dynamic mother and daughter duo, Karyn Hodge and Louise Smith, have been steadfast volunteers at events for well over a year on top of juggling full-time jobs. In our books, these women are amazing. Karyn is Bank Manager at Westpac Henderson and has had a long association with Westpac’s many fundraising activities for the chopper. Louise is a Registered  Nurse in the Oncology unit at Auckland Hospital and sees the helicopters flying over often.

Between both women, they have offered phenomenal support at our Open Days, Man O’ War, First of The Summer Wine, Polo, Leigh Fishing Competition, and Rescue Reunion events, as well as the Easter Show, SeePort, Hibiscus Hot Rodders Beach Festival and quiz night events. Both ladies have also rolled up their sleeves to help out at staff functions and have even picked up a paint brush to give our tired kitchen a new lease of life! Karyn and Louise have never had to use the service but they understand just how important it is. “Anything we can do to help we are very happy to,” Karyn says, “It just means giving up a few hours of our weekend. We can do that.” Karyn and Louise you have gone above and beyond the call of duty to assist our life-saving work. Thank you for the many hours and wonderful efforts your family has put in to make a difference. You are true Chopper Champions.




When we talk about goodbyes, particularly when we talk about our own departure, it can conjure up images of sadness and loss.  East Auckland’s Bonnie Farmer sees dying as just another part of life.  Rather than mourn someone’s death, she chooses to celebrate their life.

Full of life herself, we’re not surprised by Bonnie’s sunny outlook. It’s reflected in the many inspirational plaques, certificates of achievement, and family photos that adorn the walls of her home. You can’t be around Bonnie for long without laughing out loud or cracking a smile. Her positivity is positively infectious!   

One way in which Bonnie has found to honour a life is to leave a gift in her Will to our service. Having a rescue helicopter available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and FREE to the community is something we all want, but not something that’s guaranteed. With a growing population, the costs of attending rescue missions are increasing. Supporters, like Bonnie, who leave a bequest, provide peace of mind that our rescue helicopters will be here for a long time to come.

Simply put, a legacy is a great way to ensure your loved ones continue to benefit from this vital service, should they need it. It might even help save their life.

To recognise kind individuals like Bonnie, we have created a programme called Supporter for Life. This is a FREE programme which enables us to say “thank you” to these special Supporters while we still can. Planned Giving Manager, Kerrie Spicer, (pictured with Bonnie) is delighted to oversee this initiative. “People have been leaving bequests to the Trust for many years and one thing that has always saddened me is that these people never knew what it meant to us.” Kerrie says, Supporter for Life changes this. Whether someone leaves $50 or $5,000 is irrelevant; the fact that they have thought of our charity as being deserving of a gift in their Will is incredibly kind. We can now acknowledge and celebrate this.”

Bonnie is proud of being a Supporter for Life and has also left bequests to two other charities. “I’m not going to need the money when I’m gone am I?” she says, “I’ve been to your base and seen the wonderful work your service provides. One just never knows when they might need you.”

If you have already left a bequest to the Trust, please let Kerrie know so she can  make you a Supporter for Life too. If you wish to know more, she will pop some information in the post to you.

You can contact Kerrie on (09) 950 7222.