IN Rod Marshdale's eyes, the Westpac Rescue Helicopter saved his life. Now the service is helping save him from coronavirus-induced boredom.
The double lung transplant recipient and Ironman competitor is one of almost 500 people who have signed on to be part of AW139 Ultra for Everyone, an event designed to raise both the fitness of the participants and funds for the rescue helicopter service.
"With COVID, I went into hiding, and I started to get lonely and quite unmotivated," said Mr Marshdale.
"So this is the motivation I need; it's a challenge."
The AW139 Ultra for Everyone is named after the service's helicopters. For this event, participants are offered a range of challenges that sees them running, walking, cycling, swimming, rowing or competing in a triathlon throughout June.
Rod Marshdale has signed on for the most gruelling event, the Ultra. By the end of the month, he will have swum 5.56 kilometres, cycled 556 kilometres, and run or walked 139 kilometres in this virtual triathlon.
While the Ultra gets him going, Mr Marshdale's main motivation is to "give back to the chopper".
Born with cystic fibrosis, Rod Marshdale was transported from his mid-North Coast home to John Hunter Hospital by helicopter in 2013. That flight, he said, saved his life. He was given new lungs in 2015.
That flight has shaped Mr Marshdale's fundraising goal for this and other triathlons he's participating in.
"My flight cost about $3500, so I want to raise one fare for that, and one other one," he said.
"I love doing anything for the chopper. Without them, I'd be dead."
The helicopter service's CEO for northern NSW, Richard Jones, is also participating. He has elected to cycle 139 kilometres each week of June.
"Because of my old footy injuries, I can't run or walk too far," he explained.
Richard Jones said the COVID-19 restrictions had severely hit the service's fundraising schedule. So the team had to come up with "creative ideas" to find money for the service.
Kari Armitage, the boss of Quarry Mining and supporter of the helicopter service, is also a triathlete. She proposed this series of events. About 490 have joined so far, and Richard Jones said people were still welcome to sign on.
"It's just awesome," he said of the number of participants. "It's just the goodwill and the camaraderie of the community.
"We know everyone's really hurting [financially] at the moment, so if you can afford to assist, that's wonderful."
One who has signed on is Scott Ellis, owner of Ted's Bike Shop at East Maitland. He is undertaking the cycling challenge, and he has pledged that if he raises more than $5000, he will ride an additional 139 kilometres on a penny-farthing.
"I've ridden the penny-farthing three times and fallen off once, so it will be an interesting journey," Mr Ellis said.
Richard Jones said he hoped the AW139 Ultra for Everyone would raise more than $40,000 for the service.
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