Variety Trillian Bash kicks off in New Plymouth

Scooby checks out the new friendship chair presented to Egmont Village School - Photo by Sharyn Smart
Scooby checks out the new friendship chair presented to Egmont Village School – Photo by Sharyn Smart

Pupils at Egmont Village School now have a friendship chair thanks to the Scooby Doo Crew.

Fred aka Warren Haakma, Velma aka Fay Haakma and Scooby aka Cees Meeuwsen crew the Mystery Machine.

They couldn’t wait one more sleep for the official Variety Trillian Bash to start as they presented their friendship chair to the school.

Fred explained how the friendship chair worked to the children, staff and parents.

“If you are a bit sad and lonely when you sit on the friendship chair that is a sign for someone else to come and sit next to you and be your friend.”

Egmont Village School Principal Raewyn Rutherford said they were privileged to receive the chair and she could see little girls using it heaps because they often came up to staff and said ‘no-one will play with me today’.

“I thought the offer of the friendship chair was wonderful.  We found out about three weeks ago that we had been chosen as the recipients.

“I think the idea of having the chair is great.  It is a really lovely idea that fits in nicely with our values of giving, sharing and helping others that we have in place at school.

Fred AKA Warren Haakma has been bashing for 20 years and has only missed three road trips.  Thelma AKA Fay has done 6 main bashes along with 8 mini bashes and says “it’s something that gets in your blood and you just have to do it for the kids”.

“It can get quite emotional sometimes when you are seeing the joy it brings or the difference you make when you are giving an insulin pump, a wheelchair or a scooter to a kid that really needs the help.”

Team members of What a Load of Bull and The Tron were there to support the Scooby Doo Crew as they handed out giveaways before letting the children inspect their vehicles.

Both Scooby Doo Crew and What a Load of Bull display a tribute photo of westie comedian Ewen Gilmour.

What a Load of Bull team – Photo by Jacqui  Madelin.
What a Load of Bull team – Photo by Jacqui Madelin.

What a Load of Bull team captain Lyndon Tamblyn was encouraged and then supported by the late Ewan Gilmour into being a variety basher.

“I was selling beef jerky and I didn’t really know who Ewan Gilmour was.  He kept taking my samples at a trade show.  I said if you like it that much have a bag!”

Later that evening he went on stage and told jokes.  In the middle of the jokes he stops and eats his beef jerky and says Lyndon the guy down the back, he’s got beef jerky.”

“I thought you are actually quite a good bloke.  I got to know him over a number of shows we did together with him the comedian and me an exhibitor.  We bounced off each other and it was just great.

“He said you should do the variety bash.  I quickly said I would love to and the rest is history.”

The official 25th Variety Trillian Bash kicked off the next morning with 35 vehicles assembling at East End Surf Club for breakfast.

Thunderbirds are GO team with Suzy Cato (pink suit) – Photo by Jacqui Madelin
Thunderbirds are GO team with Suzy Cato (pink suit) – Photo by Jacqui Madelin

Dresssed as Lady Penelope Variety Club Ambassador Suzy Cato was set to travel in style with the Thunderbirds are GO crew as they left New Plymouth.

“The BASH is a great way of promoting Variety, especially through the small towns where Variety can play a huge part of a child’s life.  We don’t go down the main roads.  We go off all the little side tracks and side roads.  We meander our way across the country.

In doing that we meet a whole lot of people we wouldn’t normally meet, we see a whole lot of amazing scenery and get to go to places that the average kiwi wouldn’t get to do.

It’s meeting the people – that’s the highlight for me.  By talking to them and sharing your love for the bash the love is shared!”

Suzy has been involved in many Variety Bashes and is excited to be celebrating 25 years.

“We watched a montage of clips last night as part of the celebration dinner.  Oh that brought back some memories.  There were some fun times; crazy times and very wet times but definitely all were fun times.

Suzy Cato takes control of the Mystery Machine – Photo by Jacqui Madelin
Suzy Cato takes control of the Mystery Machine – Photo by Jacqui Madelin

Proud to be one of the Variety Club Ambassadors Suzy Cato just wants to say:-

“If you see one of our crazy cars please toot or give us a wave.  If we are wandering along the street maybe drop some gold coins into the bucket.  Every single dollar is going to those kiwi kids to help make their lives a little brighter, to put smiles on their faces and it’s all about having heaps of fun.  We are sunshine vehicles – it’s a wonderful event!”

To donate online to the Scooby Doo team go to




2015 Bash 6th to 14th March

This will be the 25th Anniversary Bash. Starting in New Plymouth, teams will travel South to Wellington, then back up to  finish in Auckland.

The event will be capped off by a Gala Function celebrating 25 Years of Bashing in NZ.

This will be one of the bigger bashes covering all the towns that the bash teams reside in, so get your fun stops organised, extra beds ready or maybe shift towns for the week but hey the Bash is coming to your town!

Clowning with the Clown Doctors New Zealand

Programme Director Rita Noetzel on Red Nose Day 2015
Programme Director Rita Noetzel on Red Nose Day 2014
Founder and CEO Prof. Thomas Petschner on Red Nose Day 2014
Founder and CEO Prof. Thomas Petschner on Red Nose Day 2014

Founder, CEO and Creative Director Professor Thomas Petschner’s ultimate utopia is for clown doctors to be in every hospital as part of the hospital’s daily routine.

“We have helped 70,000 patients in the last five years.

“Like people wash their hands as part of hygiene at the hospital, I would like to have clown doctors become part of the mental hygiene.  It is something that should be in every hospital and be absolutely normal and necessary.

“Knowing you have helped that many people motivates you and in many situations, as a clown doctor, the patients have changed my life and those of the people that I work with.  It is extra special when you work with someone who knows they are going to die and you are able to get a smile out of them.”

Arriving in New Zealand nine years ago Petschner was dismayed to find there were no clown doctors practicing here.  He immediately spoke to his colleague Rita Noetzel now Programme Director and Team Leader and they formed the charitable trust Clown Doctors New Zealand.

“The purpose of clown doctors is to help people overcome their challenges in regards to their hospital stay.  Clown doctors work hard to get people out of that depressive mind set of being in a hospital by distracting them and therefore reducing their pain levels.”

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Fireman Graeme Hill’s horrific burns

Engulfed by 800 degree flames and having his naked body wrapped in glad wrap are vivid memories Graeme Hill will never forget.  Nearly four years after receiving his life changing injuries he talks about what happened and what he still endures.

IMG_1679Wednesday, October 13, 2010 ended up being unlucky for two New Plymouth Senior Firefighters.  Graeme Hill, 34, and his shift partner Sam Julian, 31, entered a Lepperton chicken shed to put out a fire when a flashover fire exploded engulfing them in flames.

Graeme was thrown to the ground by the blast gaining his first serious ‘on the job’ injuries from 19 years service.  He received second and third degree burns to 20-30% of his body, requiring skin grafts on his bottom, back, legs, arms and hands.  He spent three weeks in the burns unit at Waikato Hospital before spending a further 26 months recuperating.  He was finally able to return to work on December 23, 2012.

“Sam is a very talented firefighter.  His ability to work well under pressure proved to be a very handy asset that day,” says Graeme.

“He led the way to exit the building in nasty and extremely hot conditions.”

“It went from pitch black to daylight as we managed to pop out the other side of the wall.  One second we were inside, the next we were out.”

As he removed his level 2 structure kit – jacket, helmet, breathing apparatus, etc, the seriousness of his injuries became apparent.

“I got a good view of my skin hanging off my fingers on both hands and down my arm.  I sort of looked at all that and thought ‘oh this is a bit more serious than I thought.’

Graeme’s ever present humour kicks in and says ‘Everyone picks on a ginga – even fires do,’ as he bursts into laughter.

The men were rushed to New Plymouth Base Hospital.  Sam Julian suffered burns to his bottom, back, shoulders and hands and spent 11 weeks recuperating at home before returning to work Christmas Eve 2010.

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Parenting with Nigel Latta

Nigel Latta Photo by: Jonathan Suckling
Nigel Latta
Photo by: Jonathan Suckling

Nigel Latta’s new TV series is focusing on the big issues currently facing our country and aims to get everyone talking.

The first episode titled “The new haves and have nots” aired on Tuesday 29th July with immense positive feedback from the public.

Sharyn Smart talks to him about the show and life in general.

“I had a sort of interesting university career.  I’ve got a Bachelor of Science in Zoology and a Master of Science in Marine Science.  I went back and got a Master of Philosophy with First Class Honours in Psychology and then did a post graduate Diploma in Clinical Psychology,” says Nigel.

“It was back in the days when education was better than free, I got paid to go so I could afford things that were interesting, that weren’t necessarily tied to a career, and come out of that without a massive debt.  I could never have afforded to do that now.  That’s where it’s difficult for kids today because the generation who go their education for free is now telling them you know what … we can’t afford it, you guys have to pay for it yourselves.”

Nigel says it would be easy to solve this problem by getting some of the multi-national companies to pay their fair share of taxes and then most people could have a free education.

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Sharyn Smart talks with Dean Probyn

“I don’t let my chair dictate my life.”

Dean close up 1Dean Probyn lives his ‘One Life, One Decision’ motto every day since a car accident in 1990 left him a tetraplegic.

In 1993 the New Plymouth local took an opportunity to “pay-it-forward” and share his story by speaking to school children, clubs and groups around the country.

He took his “pay it forward” a step further in 2013 and contacted the American Military to offer his skills as a motivational and inspirational speaker sharing his daily life experiences with the wounded soldiers.

After seeing such successful results from his one talk the military now want him back for a longer period of time to reach more soldiers.

“I wanted to do something to just say ‘hey thank-you’ to the soldiers and see if I could help in anyway.  I suppose it’s about paying it forward.  I’ve been blessed with friends, family, good mates and a good life.  So I got in touch with the American Military and got clearance to go in and give a talk.”

“I don’t pretend to understand what they’ve been through.  I talk to them about what I went through and what helped me get through things.  Your family, your friends, your mates, they are all important to you.  You have to be willing to talk about things because that helps.”

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Mountain emergency – Guy Vickers

Cold wait: Guy Vickers waits for the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter to rescue him off Mt Taranaki
Cold wait: Guy Vickers waits for the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter to rescue him off Mt Taranaki

My unexpected ‘flight’ while exploring Mt Taranaki

A year after a serious accident on Mt Taranaki Guy Vickers reflects on the accident that he feels could have easily cost him his life.

“This local hill (Mt Taranaki) got me back in the end.  I got caught out,” says the Stratford resident.

A very experienced mountain guide from the age of 20 Guy never thought he would receive such excruciating injuries while out tramping resulting in being winched off the mountain by the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter.

“I can’t thank the rescue crew enough, they got me out of a tough situation and they did it with such professionalism and efficiency.  I was beyond helping myself in the end and it was great knowing they are there when you need them, they were amazing.”

“The season was a bit later than normal.  They quite often say when you have an accident it is a combination of different things all coming together that just don’t quite fit together … and then something happens.  That’s pretty much what happened on that day.”

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A snapshot of Margaret Bake’s life

Pixels to Paint: Artist Margaret Bake displays her paintings alongside her photography. Photo by: Sharyn Smart
Pixels to Paint: Artist Margaret Bake displays her paintings alongside her photography.
Photo by: Sharyn Smart

Prominent retired Taranaki Photographer Margaret Bake proves that she has many strings to her artistic bow as she shows her work in an exhibition aptly titled “From pixels to paint” with friend and artist Derek Hughes.

“The idea for the title “From Pixels to Paint” is simply that I’m exploring the idea of doing some painting in a very amateur way while still having the passion for photography.

“Derek Hughes and I are sharing the Fitz Reuter Art Gallery in Inglewood.  He’s going to be exhibiting new photographic work and I’m going to be showing some photographic work and also some of my paintings because of the art that I’ve been attempting to do for the last 12 months.  We’re also going to give space to the Inglewood Photographic group to hang some of their work.”

Margaret explains her move from photography to oils as a “dabble” into the painting world.  She is certainly as capable with a brush as she is a camera.

“A year on I think I’m making a bit of progress.  I don’t how far I will take the painting or how long I will do it.  I always thought I would like to work with clay.  I’ve always wondered about pottery, ceramics and things like that. 

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Jaydene Nepia lifts gold

Weightlifting: Jaydene Nepia is easily lifted by her mentor Precious McKenzie.
Weightlifting: Jaydene Nepia is easily lifted by her mentor Precious McKenzie.

Jaydene Nepia power lifts a NZ record at first ever competition

After only a year in the sport Nelson’s Jaydene Nepia is taking the New Zealand weightlifting world by storm as she sets new records and wins gold.

In only her third competition the gutsy teenager reset the New Zealand junior clean and jerk record to 56kg while competing at the South Island weightlifting championships in June.  Jaydene broke her own previous NZ record by 1kg.

“I was stoked that I got a medal, it’s a huge achievement and my first gold.  I wanted to lift my best and win for my niece.

“I received the news that my niece had just been born and only had a couple of days to live.  I flew home to Rotorua to meet her almost straight after my competition.  I had very mixed emotions.  She was a little fighter and died on her one week birthday.”

At her competitive debut at the Christchurch invitational in March the 18-year-old claimed a New Zealand record lifting 55kgs in the Clean & Jerk under 48kg division.

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Sharyn Smart talks to Emma and Connor Heke about their “Our Green Roadie” adventure

Large Emma and sonInspiring stories by Real Life Writer Sharyn Smart

Our Green Roadie – Emma and Connor Heke’s road trip


Emma’s motto: “A little film team making big films.  Being the change we want to see in the World.”

Already living an environmentally aware lifestyle inspired Nelson film maker Emma Heke to set out on a quest to live “better not faster”.  Her first step was to attend an eco-film night which left her feeling hopeless when only six other people attended.

“Then and there I decided to make a film that celebrated the positive steps that people in NZ are taking on their journeys to become more environmentally aware. I wanted to create something that the everyday person could relate to and be inspired by.  It was crucial to find very ‘ordinary people’ who made decisions to do things extra-ordinary in their businesses and lifestyles.”

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