15 years in any job is a commendable effort, but volunteering for that long takes the achievement to another level.
Don McCully has been involved with South Canterbury Children’s Day festivities since 2003 and has been in charge as Chair for the last 12.
We can’t be sure, but Don’s association with the day is likely to be one of the longest in the country.
These days he’s a marriage celebrant and a part time bus driver, but Don became involved with Children’s Day by accident in 2003 while working as a journalist for Timaru’s The Courier. Since then, The Courier has been a major sponsor for South Canterbury’s Children’s Day.
“It was really out of necessity, the then organiser asked me to help source some free advertising for the event and working for the paper meant I could help” he says.
As the saying goes - the rest is history, and the now established event is well known and anticipated in the community.
Each year around 1500 children and their families descend on Timaru’s picturesque Caroline Bay on the first Sunday of March to celebrate Children’s Day.
Don says that the event takes all year to organise and it couldn’t happen without the support and donations from the local community.
“A big reason families keep coming back year after year is the fact that everything is gifted free of charge and such a wide variety of fun activities are provided.
“We provide free-of-charge, fresh fruit, sausages and drinks. All carnival rides, demonstrations and displays and the entertainment such as flower making and face painting don’t cost a cent either.”
It hasn’t all been plain sailing since.
In the early days, and prior to Don’s involvement, the lack of an organiser meant one year the event was cancelled and another year it was rained off.
He even says that one year on a very windy Sunday he was worried the planes flying overhead for an air show that he’d organised might crash – thankfully, they didn’t!
In 2008 the South Canterbury event was recognised by Trust Power with the Education Child/Youth Development award which Don said acknowledged the work by the committee and the support from the local community.
“There’s nothing better than seeing the smiles on the faces of children and their families who come to the event.
“I hope that nothing changes about the event apart from that it continues to grow and flourish.”
Don leads a passionate committee of ten volunteers; some represent organisations such as Police, Salvation Army, Plunket and Family Works. The others are passionate independents like Don.
Children’s Day is on Sunday 4th March 2018 and we encourage everyone to get involved and to put tamariki first!