South West community celebrates miracle rescue service during magic evening

A record crowd has turned out to raise money for RACQ LifeFlight Rescue, at the Toowoomba Magic and Miracles LifeFlight Ball, presented by International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC).

“Toowoomba is our busiest base; 650 missions last year and events like this help keep our choppers ready to respond,” LifeFlight Australia Chairman, Hon. Rob Borbidge AO, said.

Six hundred people poured into the Rumours International Convention Centre, to show their support for the lifesaving aeromedical service.

“LifeFlight provides an enormous service to the people of the greater Toowoomba region and indeed south east Queensland,” Mr Borbidge said.

Among the crowd was past patient, Mikaela Holzheimer, who was rescued by LifeFlight in 2019.

The then-pregnant Mikaela and her now-husband had stopped to help at a car crash, when one of the crashed cars unexpectedly restarted and crashed into the expectant mother.

“I was 27 weeks pregnant, with our little girl, so it was pretty scary,” Mikaela said.

“At the time, I couldn’t feel my legs and they couldn’t find my baby’s heartbeat.”

Mikaela was flown to the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, where she spent some time in ICU and had to undergo a lower leg reconstruction.

“If it wasn’t for LifeFlight, I probably wouldn’t have my legs today and I wouldn’t have my daughter.”

The 2021 event raised more than $420,000; a record for a LifeFlight ball.

$20,000 of that was raised in just 7 minutes, during the Ryley Jewellery balloon pop.

The generous crowd was also encouraged to give big during live auctions, after hearing from past patient, Tim Smith, who was critically injured three days before his wedding, in 2019.

RACQ LifeFlight Rescue Pilot, David Hampshire, said meeting people who’ve been airlifted is amazing.

“You never ever wake up in the morning and have your breakfast and think you’re going to be in the back of our helicopter in the afternoon,” he said.

“To see them walk in, healthy and smiling is just great.”

The event was the first time RACQ LifeFlight Rescue supporters were able to come together since 2019, after last year’s gala was cancelled, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ball is one of the organisation’s biggest fundraisers of the year.

“LifeFlight provides a valuable service to the community,” Kenneth Ledger – of IADC – said.

“It’s an incredible service and they help people anywhere, anytime.”

Magician Cosentino travelled to Toowoomba, to truly bring magic to the event.

Each year, Toowoomba Ball attendees participate in a financial pledge, to raise money for training or new equipment, for the local RACQ LifeFlight Rescue crews.

On Saturday night, guests pledged an astonishing $125,000, to go toward new specialised night vision goggles.

In its 42-year history, RACQ LifeFlight Rescue has come to the aid of more than 60,000 people.

Each critical mission is valued at more than $25,000, but comes at no cost to the patient.

“We’re funded to 70 per cent, so we look for about 30 per cent – of community donations – to keep our sevice in the air,” Mr Hampshire said.

In 2020, Toowoomba RACQ LifeFlight Rescue crews flew 650 missions, costing $16.2 million.

The top five missions, according to patient illness and injury:

  1. Motor vehicle accidents (91)
  2. Cardiac (65)
  3. Serious illness/infection (62)
  4. Neurological (46)
  5. Falls (41)

“A lot of people say they don’t need LifeFlight, but when you do need it or know someone that has had it, this is vital and you know these funds are going to a really good cause,” Mrs Holzheimer said.

Each year, RACQ LifeFlight Rescue has to make up 30% of the operational costs of lifesaving missions and this is raised through sponsors, donors and events, like the Magic and Miracles LifeFlight Ball, presented by IADC.  The remaining 70% is covered by a service agreement with the Queensland Government, the sponsorship of RACQ and innovative profit-for-purpose social enterprises all contribute to pay for this vital service.