Schools make a splash for flood-affected students

Students from four North Coast schools this week dived head-first into some much-needed fun, writes Kristi Pritchard-Owens.

Students in a line holding colourful handmade signs saying thank you Students in a line holding colourful handmade signs saying thank you
Image: A vote of thanks: Students from the four schools put in their best creative efforts to demonstrate their appreciation of all the hard work by the community.

After Empire Vale Public School was extensively impacted by the Northern Rivers floods, Principal Bonita Avery wanted to treat her students.

Pool managers Lee Fitzgerald and Troy White already wanted to donate funds to the small school and began thinking it would be great to do more.

An idea began to grow - a day at Ballina Pool and Waterslide for Empire Vale students.

But as more people in the North Coast community found out about the plan, it began to blossom into a fully fledged fun day – allowing more schools to come on board.

“We wanted to invite Cabbage Tree Island, because they’re being hosted at Southern Cross Public School with us,” Ms Avery said.

“And Wardell and Broadwater are part of our community of schools, so we wanted them to come as well,” she said.

Businesses, community groups and a large number of individuals all worked hard to make sure the pool fun day went ahead.

After such a devastating deluge, organising the excursion was no simple matter.

“Of course, so many students have lost everything – absolutely everything,” the Empire Vale principal said.

“And that includes swimmers and towels.”

Local Cheryl Stubbs recruited some famous faces to help with a key aspect, but despite the best efforts of surfing superstars Pauline Menczer and Mick Fanning the shipment of 150 swimming costumes for the students didn’t make it in time.

“We managed to come up with a solution for the younger kids and boys, which involved them wearing shorts and shirts, Ms Avery said.

“But we needed help for the older girls.”

Libby McDonald, from Buy a Bed for Flood Victims, came to their aid dashing to local department stores to buy swimmers the morning of the fun day – after already organising new towels, with help from Jye and Rana Townend.

While the main aim was to give the students some much-needed joy, Ms Avery said the choice of activity was deliberate.

“We’re well aware that the flooding may have traumatised some of these students,” she said.

“We want to give them back the water, we want to give them back the fun.”

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