A crowd of more than 450 special guests were part of the event on Saturday night (Sept 1st), toasting the milestone occasion with bubbles and beer.
The formal proceedings included a theatrical flourish, with the hanger doors being jointly opened by Hon Dr John McVeigh MP, Federal Member for Groom and philanthropist Clive Berghofer.
The multi-million dollar facility which bears his name was jointly funded.
“Clive has stepped up ladies and gentlemen, yet again, for our community” said Dr McVeigh in his speech.
“Almost $2 million dollars towards this development, matching therefore the $2 million dollars from the Australian Government, whom I represent here tonight and of course the LifeFlight Foundation contribution of roughly half a million dollars.”
Mr Berghofer was presented with a key to the hangar, prompting a standing ovation.
“It’s a very special night tonight that we have the best facility of its type anywhere in this country as a result of Clive’s efforts and also the support that was received from the Commonwealth Government. Clive, tonight we thank you and we salute you,” said LifeFlight Board Chairman Rob Borbidge.
“This is the realisation of a twelve year dream. Now we have the Clive Berghofer LifeFlight Centre open. It’s investing in health, it’s an insurance policy. You hope you’re never going to need the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter, but you never know,” said Mr Berghofer.
The ceremonial opening of the one tonne doors revealed a transformed interior. The purpose-built helicopter facility was turned into an industrial-chic ballroom.
After 5 months of construction and as many months of event planning, the “Behind the Hangar Doors” Ball was finally underway.
Among the guests were RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter aeromedical crew members and some of the patients they have airlifted during life-saving rescue missions, including 7 year old Maddox Porter who suffered terrible injuries on Easter Sunday when his hand was caught in the blades of a ride-on lawnmower.
“Perhaps not at the time but certainly later, we realised how important the airlift had been. In Maddox’s case due to the trauma of his hand, every second counted and the sooner we could get him into surgery, into theatre, the more likelihood of saving his hand there was,” said Maddox’s father, Michael.
The Porter family and their community have raised more than $9 000 for the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter service.
“For what LifeFlight have done for our son and our family, I will support them forever. I think if they didn’t come that day Maddox wouldn’t have a hand, it’s as simple as that and I’m grateful. Til the day I die, LifeFlight will be very, very, very close to us,” says Shelley, Maddox’s mother.
For other past RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter patients and their families, it was a poignant reminder of their own life-threatening emergency and the part RACQ LifeFlight Rescue played in their survival.
A world-class service which is provided at no cost to patients is expensive and up to 30% of the operational costs of lifesaving missions is raised through sponsors, donors and events such as the “Behind the Hangar Doors” Ball.
Sponsors donated auction items, which had bidders competing good-naturedly, knowing the money goes to a worthy cause.
In a nod to the aerial expertise of the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter crews, two Aerial Angels appeared, hanging by silks suspended from the hangar roof, performing seemingly gravity-defying tricks many metres above the ground.
Dignitaries at the event included The Hon Dr John McVeigh MP and Anita McVeigh, Member for Condamine Pat Weir MP, Member for Toowoomba North Trevor Watts MP and Sue Watts, Toowoomba Mayor Paul Antonio, long-time supporter and local philanthropist Clive Berghofer and his partner Sue Hawkins.
Chairman of the LifeFlight Board Hon Rob Borbidge A.O and his wife Jennifer attended, along with LifeFlight Foundation Board Member Stewart Morland and Queensland Ambulance Service Deputy Commissioner Michael Metcalfe and his wife Laanie.
The hangar doors closed at midnight.
Now, a post-ball clean-up, then another transformation will take place – the Clive Berghofer LifeFlight Centre and RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter base are expected to be fully-operational in approximately 10 days.