It’s not every day you get to learn about the history of Qantas via an after-dark light show projected onto the side of a jumbo jet in outback Queensland.
But that’s exactly how a group of intrepid fundraisers spent the evening recently – all in the name of supporting children and adults with hearing and vision loss.
More than 100 passengers joined the 20th anniversary charity flight to Longreach hosted by Pathfinders, a volunteer community of dedicated Qantas cabin crew, pilots, ground staff and their families and friends which raises funds solely for NextSense.
The flight marked two decades since the first Pathfinders charity flight was conceived—and more than half a century since Pathfinders first began raising money to support us. Fittingly, Longreach was the destination for the first charity flight and so, 20 years later, the Pathfinders decided to head back to the region where the Qantas legend was born.
'We’ve ferried charity flight passengers all over Australia to some amazing day-trip destinations over the past 20 years – from Alice Springs to the Adelaide Hills, with all ticket sales going to NextSense,' Pathfinders President Captain Craig Lambert said.
'While COVID-19 grounded the Pathfinders flights for a time – we are back in the skies and very much committed to continuing this important work for many years to come.'
Two passengers who have only missed one flight in those two decades are Ron and Olive Taylor, a Sydney couple who have used the flights as a way of seeing parts of Australia they would not normally visit, while knowing their funds were going to a worthwhile cause.
On touching down in Longreach they told the Longreach Leader newspaper that they have met many friends along the way—and also managed to meet celebrities such as Cathy Freeman.
Pathfinders Vice President Louise Flitcroft Paisley said despite the 6.30am take-off, passengers and crew were in fine spirits as they hit downtown Longreach, meeting some very friendly locals, sampling the retail precinct, and heading over to the iconic Stockman’s Hall of Fame and Qantas Founders Museum for a tour.
'We were so pleased to also meet some of the year 5 and 6 students from Longreach State School, who so ably served us lunch at the Founders Museum as part of their hospitality studies,' Louise said.
'At lunch, we heard from NextSense Chief Executive Chris Rehn about the exciting future direction of the organisation, and from Board member and Medical Director of the cochlear implant program Clinical Professor Catherine Birman, who updated us on some of the impressive work being done to support both children and adults with hearing loss.
We also heard from Heather Hunt, who has hearing loss, is a teacher at NextSense School and who also attended NextSense School herself. Heather gave us some amazing insight into how she is working with her students and the difference targeted support makes to their social and academic achievements.'
This year, ticket sales and the popular raffle draws raised a very impressive $70,000—funds that will help us take our education programs to even greater heights, extending our reach and influencing the field of sensory disability education.
NextSense Chief Executive Chris Rehn said: “We are incredibly fortunate to have such dedicated supporters in Pathfinders—that they have worked on our behalf for more than 50 years is an amazing achievement.
'The charity flight and all the work Pathfinders does really supports us in being able to work with children, adults and their families in an exceptional way that focuses on each person’s unique goals.'