Community unites to support family

Rick Woodward (centre) and daughter Emily (4), sitting on his shoulders, are surrounded by...
Rick Woodward (centre) and daughter Emily (4), sitting on his shoulders, are surrounded by neighbours and friends at the Frye Cres Fundraising Fiesta at Albert Town on Saturday. Photo by Marjorie Cook.
Albert Town father Rick Woodward feels "very, very humbled" by the support of his neighbours, friends and Air New Zealand, who rallied on Saturday to help raise more than $6000 so his daughter Emily Redwood (4) can fly to Christchurch to visit her sick younger brother, Charlie Redwood (2).

Charlie is being treated for an aggressive brain cancer in Christchurch.

"I feel overwhelming grateful," Mr Woodward said on Saturday, after the tally was announced.

Charlie will be at Ronald McDonald House in Christchurch with his mother, Keighley Redshaw, for a minimum of four months while Mr Woodward and Emily (4) are at home in Albert Town, where Mr Woodward works for a mountain-bike and motorcycle parts and accessories importing company.

Public funding is available so Mr Woodward can fly to Christchurch to visit his son and wife, but Emily's flights are not covered.

Mr Woodward was amazed when more than 1000 people attended the Frye Cres fundraiser on Saturday.

But he felt completely stunned when a woman he had never met, Suzi Bunting, called in and told him Air New Zealand had offered Emily two free return flights between Wanaka and Christchurch so she could travel with her dad to visit Charlie.

"How wicked is that?" Mr Woodward wondered aloud.

Ms Bunting was a pilot for Thomas Cook Airlines in the United Kingdom but now lives in Wanaka with her family.

She heard about Charlie and Emily's plight and, after approaching Air New Zealand on Friday, received an email from public relations representative Lara Harrison in Auckland saying she would arrange the flights.

Mr Woodward described his son as a "tough wee character".

Charlie has already had a successful operation in Auckland's Starship Hospital to remove the tumour.

"He's doing really well, all in all. He's had a lot on his plate."

Charlie was now undergoing chemotherapy treatment and it would knock his immune system about and make him susceptible to colds, flu and viruses, Mr Woodward said.

The family decided it was better for Charlie and his mother to stay close to specialist services in Christchurch rather than bring him home after chemotherapy and risk him becoming ill.

If Charlie became sick, he would require immediate medical treatment and would need to be flown to Christchurch Hospital as soon as possible.

"We were told they would send helicopters but we don't want to be that much of a burden on the taxpayer, to be honest," Mr Woodward said.

Neighbour Rae Paterson, one of many who helped organise the fundraiser in just two weeks, said the event was "astonishing" and showed "good, old-fashioned community support" still existed in Wanaka.

Ms Paterson said the Upper Clutha Children's Specialist Medical Trust would also benefit from the fundraiser.

The Albert Town Tavern will hold its own separate fundraising event for Charlie Redwood at next weekend's classic car and motorcycle run to Chatto Creek.

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