Bad smell charity's sweetest find

Michael Kerry’s dogged resolve as a teenager landed him a volunteer position with the Life Saver Rescue Helicopter. Twenty-five years on, his tenacity has earned him a rewarding career and a prestigious medal.

The Life Saver Rescue Helicopter crewman has been awarded the National Medal for his work with the Rescue Helicopter, which he joined as an 18-year-old after being heavily involved in surf lifesaving.

The now 42-year-old became a full-time member of staff in 1992 and is now the Rescue Helicopter’s longest-serving employee.

“When I first started as a volunteer the service only had one full-time pilot and one part-time pilot – all the crewmen were volunteers,” Mr Kerry said. “I was a member of the surf club at Ballina, like most of the guys, and I hung around the helicopter base like a bad smell until I was old enough to help out.

“The reason that I’ve stayed so long is because of the enjoyment of the job and the great team environment; I still look forward to coming to work each week.”

Life Saver Rescue Helicopter general manager Kris Beavis had high praise for his employee.

“Mick’s not just a nice guy, he’s also highly dedicated to what he does… I hope he stays with us another 25 years.”

It’s been a big week at the Helibase, with six Life Saver Rescue Helicopter volunteers being awarded service badges.

Twin sisters Emily and Mary Betteridge and Goonellabah man Ken Jolley have been tireless workers for the Rescue Helicopter since it began in the early 1980s and received 25-year service badges. Three other long-term volunteers, Ellie Morrissey, Pat Smith and Betty Reynolds, received their 20-year long-service awards.

A war veteran, Mr Jolley knows all too well the importance of helicopters in emergency medical transport.

“As a Vietnam vet, I’ve seen how effective the choppers are; they’re life-saving machines,” he said. “For me, volunteering was just a natural progression.”

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