THE mercury may have dipped below freezing, but it did nothing to chill the anticipation and excitement at the start line of the 2017 Drovers Run.
More than 30 entrants braved the cold outside Longyard on Saturday morning as they set off on the two-week trek which will take them to remote South Australia and back.
The event in its fourth year is a major fundraiser for the Tamworth base of the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to ensure people in need won’t have to pay for the service.
Rescue helicopter marketing and fundraising manager, James Lawrence, said the four-wheel-drive trek was one of the biggest money raisers for the chopper.
“As a service, we carry out about 1500 call outs in northern NSW and about 500 of those originate from the Tamworth base,” he said.
“The money raised goes straight back into the Tamworth operation to make sure no one ever has to pay for the service when they need it.”
As the 2017 Drovers drivers set off for their first stop in Brewarrina, the group had already raised a combined sum just shy of $120,000.
Mr Lawrence expects that figure to grow.
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“It really is pretty unique, the individuals raise funds for a couple of months leading up to the event,” he said.
“They’ll have more raffles and auctions in the towns they stop in along the way. “We’re anticipating about $170,000 will be raised.”
The 2017 Graincorp Molafos Drovers Run will take the drivers to Cameron’s Corner and as far west as Marree in South Australia, before travelling back through Louth, Coonabarabran and over the finish line in Tamworth on August 11.
Chief executive officer of the rescue chopper service, Richard Jones, was blown away by the support from participants and sponsors of the event.
“On behalf of everyone at the service, I would like to thank the participants and their supporters for raising greatly needed funds for the rescue helicopter and our valued event partners for their generosity,” Mr Jones said.