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Gold Coast Red Shield Appeal launch an ‘emotional journey’

Natalie Cook, Olympic gold medallist in volleyball, auctions one of her volleyballs at the Gold Coast launch. Photos: Annie Noon, Fotoforce photography.

“An emotional rollercoaster” was how many people attending the 25th Gold Coast Red Shield Appeal launch described the event on Wednesday 29 May.

“I was inspired, I laughed, I cried and I was so motivated to help change the lives of people struggling through so much to rebuild their lives and make a difference in their communities and beyond,” said one attendee.

After Tahana Turner’s moving and personal Acknowledgement of Country, the event MC, Councillor Glenn Tozer, introduced the keynote speaker, Olympic gold medallist and Salvation Army supporter Natalie Cook.

Natalie Cook speaking to a packed auditorium at the launch.

Natalie won her gold medal for beach volleyball during the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. She joked that her connection to the Salvos was that she had “rattled a fundraising bucket” to get herself, and now future generations, to the Olympic Games, and knows the lifeline that funds provide in changing lives.

“Whether it’s natural, economic, man-made or otherwise disasters, there is always someone that can help their neighbour,” she said. “There is always someone doing it tougher than us, and ultimately, that’s what this is all about.

“As athletes, we have big goals – we have to when we’re trying to be the best in the world. I won my medal on the same day as Cathy Freeman. I was famous for four hours! It took her 45 seconds to win her medal – it took me 10 days … and every 17 seconds, someone reaches out to the Salvos … so the reason for sport, the reason I’m here and the reason it makes sense is that we all contribute to bigger goals. We need teamwork to do this together.

“In beach volleyball, there are two players. I couldn’t have done this without [teammate] Kerri Pottharst and without my coaches … when we go for our goals, we need to count on our mates; we need to count on each other. We need to play for something bigger than ourselves.”

After humorously commenting on the phrase ‘There’s no such thing as a free breakfast’ and encouraging those gathered to take the gift of the free Salvos socks on the tables, Natalie spoke about leaving a legacy.

“Kerri and I won Olympic gold medals, leaving a legacy for the next generation … you never know where your shadow extends. You never know who you can help.”

Natalie’s presentation, which concluded with a hilarious and fruitful auction of two of her beach volleyballs, was followed by a powerful personal testimony.

Macalie’s story

Macalie Adamson, a Prison and Social Mission Chaplain for The Salvation Army in South East Queensland, invited people to “share in the victory of her second act” as she shared her painful and traumatic experience through addiction and the ultimate decision “to truly live” that turned her life around.

Macalie shares her story at the launch.

The day her then 16-year-old son’s heart broke when his father forgot his birthday was the day that Macalie admitted to herself that she needed help.

“I called the Salvos, and I promptly burst into tears,” she shared. “I’d been homeless for 18 months, incapable of managing my own life, and all I could do was get from one week to the next so I could buy more drugs. Katherine, the lady on the phone, booked me in for an appointment the next day and told me that Huia would meet me and give me a hug.

“All I could think was ‘Why would someone want to hug a homeless junkie like me?’ The next day, I walked through the doors of the Gold Coast Recovery Centre – Pathways as it’s known. Huia got me settled and I got up the courage to tell her what Katherine had said. She came straight over and wrapped me up in the biggest hug. I will never forget that moment. The love and the compassion that was given to me is something that inspires me on the tough days and it will for the rest of my life.”

Macalie completed the Pathways program twice before struggling with a relapse. She called the Salvos again, entered detox, got sober, and started the Pathways program for the third time.

“Life was starting to fall into place, and I had inspiration to maintain my sobriety permanently, Macalie shared. “I then decided that the Salvos needed to hire me. I made a promise to myself that they would. They helped me enrol in a Community Services certificate, and a trainer came into the Recovery Centre to help people from the Pathways program and rehab become employable again. By this time, I’d been in with the Salvos Moneycare program, had started to learn how to budget, and I was saving a small amount of money every fortnight.”

Macalie then lost her accommodation and had to find somewhere else to live. Another call to the Salvos saw her accepted into Stillwaters supported accommodation for women and families experiencing crisis.

“I gave my heart to Jesus that day. I gave my heart to a God I didn’t know, but to a God that I knew, knew me.”

Through the chaplain and other residents, Macalie discovered that The Salvation Army was a church. The other residents encouraged her to go with them to the Gold Coast Temple Corps, next to Still Waters.

“I remember hearing Major Kevin Holland preach like it was yesterday, speaking about William and Catherine Booth and their Christian Mission,” she recounted. “William had taken his son to a pub, put his arm around him and said, ‘Son, these are our people.’

“I gave my heart to Jesus that day. I gave my heart to a God I didn’t know, but to a God that I knew, knew me. That was over seven years ago. And I’m proud to say that in three days, I will be six years clean. Every step of the way, one part or all parts of the Gold Coast Salvation Army have surrounded me. They have loved me, particularly when I was incapable of loving myself.

“I was a complex case as so many of us who need your support are. I was traumatised, and I was incapable of asking for help or receiving it. And it wasn’t until everyone surrounded me with the mission of William and Catherine Booth to transform one life at a time with the love of Jesus, that I can stand before you and celebrate a life well lived.

“The day that I left detox, I had made a promise to one day walk through the doors of Gold Coast Recovery Services with a Salvation Army uniform on. It took me 18 months, but I walked through those doors as a proud volunteer. And I now have the absolute privilege to be a chaplain for the Salvation Army, where I share my love for God, a deep respect for myself and as a passion to serve others.

“I believe in good. Can you support us to help others, so they do too?”

Divisional Commander’s comments

In his opening remarks, Major Mark Everitt, Queensland Divisional Commander, spoke to the group about The Salvation Army’s motivation to help those in the greatest need in our community.

Queensland Divisional Commander gives his opening remarks at the launch.

“There are more than half a million Queenslanders living in poverty,” he shared. “One in five people are unable to afford meals, basic necessities and medical bills. We know that those suffering through poverty are three times more likely to suffer acute mental stress, and during times of crisis, it can feel like they’re very much alone and there is no escape.

“We’re all here today because we’re on a mission because we share a commitment to help those in crisis. And thanks to the support of our generous donors like yourselves, we stand ready to walk alongside individuals and families on their journey from providing immediate relief like bill assistance and groceries to offering long-term support such as counselling and accommodation.”

Mark also shared that the Red Shield Appeal aims to highlight the challenges faced by ordinary Australians who hesitate to seek assistance out of fear of shame and those enduring significant hardships to provide for and protect their families.

“Friends, we invite you to join with us to ensure that those facing crisis can get the support that they need when they need it,” Mark said. “We deeply appreciate your donation of finances and your time and your effort and your interest, and really, the truth is, we can only fulfil our God-given a mission because of you.”

Love your neighbour

Gold Coast Mayor Councillor Tom Tate focused on the need for Gold Coasters to continue “looking out for and caring for our neighbours – whoever they might be.”

He recalled how his grandfather, who fought in World War Two, didn’t talk much about the war, “but one thing he didn’t mind talking about is how the Salvos helped those in the trenches by giving water, food and a helping hand – and they’re still doing that,” he said.

Natalie Cook shows off her Olympic gold medal to Mayor Tom Tate and other guests at the launch.

Catherine O’Sullivan, Chair, Gold Coast Advisory Group, emphasised the “emotional rollercoaster” everyone had been on during the breakfast.

“I have to say, ‘Wow, the humour of Nat and the power of Macalie’s story – thank you so much,” she said. “I feel like it’s been an emotional journey here. We’ve heard so many messages, including Tom’s about loving our neighbour. I think that’s what everyone in this room is actually living by being here today and gaining an understanding of what the Salvos actually do …

“And we know that on the Gold Coast, it’s become a very strong giving community. And it’s been wonderful over my last 12 years to see that evolution here. And the Salvos have stayed strong on their commitment, and continuation of what they do. If we can raise $330,000 today, we will get to $6.5 million over 25 years. And every cent of that goes back to people here on the Gold Coast.”

Major Michele Terracini concluded the event and thanked everyone for their support and the tangible difference their contributions made.

“Our dedication lies in meeting people at their point of need, walking alongside them to help navigate through crisis and guiding them through a transformative journey. With your support, we can give a new beginning to those who need it.”

Click through the slideshow below to view more photos of the event.




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