A proud and grateful Tom Goolagong couldn't speak highly enough of the Orange community, who's generosity helped him deliver almost a tonne of ham and just as much festive cheer to many in need on Christmas Eve.
Mr Goolagong was joined by a band of tireless volunteers and sponsors, a handful of Clontarf Academy students, two of Central West Police District's finest and, of course, Santa Claus, as part of the Christmas Eve food drive he piloted.
The group visited a number of Orange's lower socio-economic areas across the day and handed out 800 kilograms of ham and plenty more food and sweets, the cost was covered by the community's donations, in a bid to 'give people some happiness on Christmas Day'.
I really hope the hams, the food and even just seeing Santa did help give people some happiness on Christmas.Tom Goolagong
"I really hope the hams, the food and even just seeing Santa did help give people some happiness on Christmas Day, sometimes a lot of us forget how lucky we are and I think everyone deserves that at this time of year," Mr Goolagong said.
"It's funny sometimes you hear people stressing about how hectic this time of year can be because they have to split Christmas Day up to make sure they're seeing all of their family, I know people who were going to three or four different houses during the day.
"Then at the other end of the scale so many people were just happy to have a ham to make their day special, it puts everything into perspective so I can't thank everyone enough who donated, we went well beyond our initial goal and it's a real show of how amazing the community we live in is."
Initially Mr Goolagong was hopeful of raising $3,500 in donations but after they started streaming in the target was lifted to $5,500, which would have covered the cost of approximately 300 hams, along with a few other bits and pieces.
Ultimately, more than $8,000 worth of donations rolled in.
"It was pretty incredible, I had no idea what 400 kilograms of ham looked like until I saw it. I actually picked up the first load and didn't realise I only had half of it," Mr Goolagong laughed.
"It really did exceed expectations by a long way and I can't thank everyone who donated enough along with everyone who volunteered, came along to help and made the process easier because it was pretty crazy how many people were waiting at some of the stops.
"It wouldn't have been possible without all those donations or the local businesses that jumped on board like Barrett's Wholesale Foods, Coles and Bunnings Warehouse."
Although this was the first Christmas Eve drive, Mr Goolagong has been partnering with local business to help provide wholesome meals to those in need throughout 2019.
Together with the Parkview Hotel and aided by students and colleagues from Canobolas Rural Technology High School's Clontarf Academy, Mr Goolagong made three runs through the community in 2019, and said he's hopeful of continuing in the new year.
For the moment, he said he'll focus on spending time with his family and enjoying the holiday period, but will begin considering when and how to continue the concept next year.
HAVE YOUR SAY
- Send us a letter to the editor using the form below: