On the road Down Under

From day one, it’s been an amazing tour and I am so impressed with the amount of work put in by our wonderful AAF team and support groups. Special mention must go to our brilliant Oz team – Anne, Jude, Brenda, Jane and Kerri who juggled the six major events with such professionalism – and a warm sense of humour at the end of very late nights. 

Our first event on 19 February at Tiger Lil’s in Perth was the perfect start to the roadshow – raising thousands of Aussie dollars for the Moon Bear Rescue and our other projects. A huge thanks to Brenda, Elizabeth and our hardworking Perth support group for organising such a great night and for packing the venue with old and new friends.

Adelaide saw generous supporters Richard Collins and Jo Politis funding the entire event so that literally everything went to the bears! Richard had also persuaded corporate friends to dig deep into their pockets and the “final” amount just kept rising during an unforgettable evening. AAF’s Jude had also sprung a surprise with cut-out life-size bears (Andrew, Freedom and Jasper) which made me cry on walking into the room. 

The Melbourne event saw Bronwyn, Prue and the team running between the auditorium and the auction room making sure things were running smoothly – and the fastest-talking auctioneer I’ve ever heard in my life! Next stop Canberra, where Kieran, Sue and the whole team there put together an amazing event with the help of the very generous Mark and Anthony at restaurant Teatro Vivaldi. This is the third time they have sponsored our roadshow. 

On to the Sydney event at the Imperial Peking Restaurant, which was lots of fun with Channel 9’s Mike Munro as MC. Mike (pictured here with me, Anne and Moonie) is a long-time friend of Animals Asia and he always finds time to help spread the word despite his heavy schedule. In fact, I’m sure that many of our Aussie supporters first learned about the Moon Bear Rescue through Mike and fell in love with their country’s adopted bears Banjo, Matilda and, of course, Aussie (or the Wuss as he’s more affectionately known). 

Finally the Gold Coast, where Anna, Ursula and Cats helped to organise the event at the exquisite China Pier restaurant overlooking the harbour. This was the third Chinese restaurant on the tour to serve completely veggie cuisine and what incredible food it was, really connecting our friends and guests to projects so many thousands of miles away in China. In fact, the restaurant and catering staff across the country were so thoughtful too when they kindly packed up food for Anne, Jude and I to take away as we left the functions late at night – happy, but absolutely starving! 

The support has been overwhelming throughout and the presentations were made so special and successful by well-known Aussies around the country who volunteered their time to MC. In Adelaide, we had Carole Whitelock of the ABC who always cries when she talks about the bears and then starts the whole audience doing the same. In Melbourne, Phil Kafcaloudes of Radio National didn’t cry but sold his own shirt at the auction that night (thanks Phil!), and on the Gold Coast, lovely Lea Budge of Radio 101 FM was MC. Lea, together with husband Wayne, and Patti and team, has been with the bears since the year dot! 

I’m truly grateful to each of these terrific people and the many other volunteers and businesses that so generously contributed to the events – it just gets better and better every time. 

Altogether, we raised over A$270,000 which included fantastically generous bids for our “Highlights of China Tour”. Two supporters from each state will now be meeting their Aussie bears face to face in October. I’m already looking forward to taking them around and showing off our family. 

Anne, Jude and I were deeply touched to see so many people crying for the plight of the bears, dogs and cats – and smiling then too when they realised with pride that they were behind a true sea of change for the animals across Asia as a result of their dedication and help. 

It’s all been so rushed and I’m not sure I’ve taken it all in yet, but I’m sure that wonderful Aussie warmth is going to be staying with me for some time, and I’m not talking about the weather.

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