Ballarat Vietnam veteran Jim Feeney and his wife Ruth for years have watched and donated to the Royal Childrens Hospital Appeal Good Friday telethon on Channel 7. This year, though they did more than make a simple phone-in donation.
They bid for a new caravan, built by apprentices from the Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE as part of their Recreational Vehicle Building Certificate 3 apprentices training, developed for the Recreational Vehicle Manufacturers Association of Australia (RVMAA).
Called the NMIT Highlander and valued at $36,000 the Feeneys winning bid was $30,000. All the money has gone to the hospital as the RVMAA donated the caravan to the appeal.
The retired couple didnt pick up the van until May 4 because after the appeal they flew to Perth, where Jim attended a Vietnam veterans reunion on Anzac Day.
But when they got back, the wait was worth it, because while being stored at Roadstar Caravans, at Campbellfield, the company installed a two-way air conditioner at no extra cost as a special thank you to the winning bidders.
RVMAA president Tony Bellamy, who is also managing director of Roadstar, said that the NMIT Highlander was a wonderful example of the quality of young people who have embarked on the apprenticeship course.
They are dedicated young people, keen to be the very best, Tony Bellamy said. When it came to deciding what to do with the caravan, the RVMAA Board felt it should go to a charity that involves young people, and the Royal Childrens Hospital fitted the bill perfectly.
Tony Bellamy praised the appeal office for tremendous support, Channel 7 for the great promotion of the van and also the support of the Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE.
Everyone worked so hard to make it a great success, and the Feeneys topped it off with such a marvellous winning bid, Tony Bellamy said.
The caravan was built using materials and fittings and fixtures that were donated by major recreational vehicle manufacturers and suppliers, all members of the RVMAA.
As for the Feeneys, they cant wait to head north to escape the chill of winter.
We were planning to go north in our faithful old Monarch Crusader pop-top, but when we saw the Highlander on television we didnt hesitate, recalled Mrs Feeney.
We had to trust our instincts because all we saw were photographs of the caravan on the television screen, but we have been so pleased with the quality of our old van, we were confident that a modern van would be even better.
When they picked up the van, seeing inside for the first time, they were impressed at the spaciousness and how advanced designs have come since they bought their first caravan eight years ago.
Its wonderful and so comfortable, Ruth Feeney said, while husband Jim liked the sleek aerodynamic styling and tandem axle adding: It will ride easily behind our Nissan Patrol. Its a beauty.
The Feeneys in recent years have taken a number of long-distance trips, made all the easier by having family members staying in their home while they were away.
If everything is looked after at home, then it means we can truly relax and enjoy our holiday in a mobile home away from home, Ruth Feeney said.
Anyone in the market for a much loved and cared for second hand pop-top Monarch Crusader should contact the Feeneys before they head north.
Anyone who wants to see the quality of a NMIT apprentices built van can see another recently built Highlander on display at the RVMAA stand during the Victorian Caravan, Camping and Touring Supershow at Caulfield from May 17 to 23.