Charters Towers region locals have banded together to raise tens of thousands of dollars to support a local family in mourning.
- School bus driver Dick Pugh decided to help the Matthews family following the loss of wife and mother Suzie
- Graziers donated cattle which were auctioned for free through the local sale yards
- The fundraiser has brought in nearly $80,000, as the locals dig deep to help one of their own
Mingela woman Suzie Matthews died earlier this year after battling a brain tumour, leaving behind husband Peter and five children between four and 18 years old.
After decades knowing the family, local school bus driver and Mingela cattleman Dick Pugh decided to rattle the tin and raise some money in their hour of need.
“Suzie rang me last year and told me she had these tumours on the brain, in a very short period of time this year she went downhill and lost the battle,” he said.
Mr Pugh, who also drove Mrs Matthews’ husband Peter on his school bus many years ago, said the news greatly affected him and many others in the small community, 80 kilometres from Townsville.
“Suzie’s biggest wish was that she could see the youngest, Evie, start school next year and that didn’t happen so things like that make it very hard,” he said.
Stampede to donate cattle
“One day I had a brainstorm and I thought, ‘how about I organise a couple of the parents on the school bus who have cattle to donate a beast?’ I was hoping for 10 little weaner [cattle],” Mr Pugh said.
“I thought I’ll keep ringing ’til someone knocks me back, but no one did. I rang 50, 60 people.”
At a sale last Friday, a mixture of 32 weaners, steers and bullocks were auctioned at Charters Towers, making $43,000 for the fundraiser.
With about $60,000 raised from cattle sales so far, an additional 20 locals have pledged to donate the sale average price, give cash or provide gift vouchers for local businesses.
“A lot of these people didn’t know the family and that in itself tells you how giving our community is. I was blown away by the response.”
Bush spirit strong
Livestock agent Brent Williams was approached by Mr Pugh to help auction the cattle and said Mr Matthews was astonished at the district’s generosity.
“Peter [Matthews] was overwhelmed and shocked. I think Dick told him we might have sold one head, so 32 on the day was pretty good,” he said.
The yards waived all fees and charges usually associated with selling cattle through the weekly sale, with agents donating their usual commission as well.