Charity luncheon huge success (+ video)

By Georgina Harris

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More than $60,000 has been raised at the Rotorua Charity Luncheon - thanks to strong community support.

Event organiser Don Gollan said the final total was yet to be determined but he was happy with how today's luncheon went.

"There were a good number of people and we hope people come back next year. The five Rotary clubs have incredible support from Rotorua businesses."

More than 420 people attended the luncheon at the Rotorua Energy Events Centre, bidding on items in the live and silent auctions.

Several big-ticket items were snapped up, including a 2016 Hyundai Veloster that went for $40,000, a limited-edition All Blacks jersey signed by former captain Richie McCaw for $5000, and a guitar signed by The Eagles for $7500.

A highlight of the event was the guest speaker - Olympic gold medallist rower and 2016 New Zealand Olympic games chef de mission Rob Waddell.

After being introduced by MC Paul Allison as a "legend ... one of the finest we've ever had" a video of Waddell's gold-medal-winning race in the single sculls final at the 2000 Sydney Olympic games was shown, as U2's Beautiful Day was played on two large screens.

The audience cheered as they watched Waddell cross the line in front of close rival Xeno Muller.

Mr Allison asked Waddell his memories of the race.

"It's always enjoyable watching [the race] ... it's a huge relief when you win, as it's a wonderful chance to give back as so many people have helped you to get there," he said.

Waddell spoke of the pressure as New Zealand's last chance at a gold medal in Sydney.

"It was the hardest race I've ever had in my life."

He said a turning point in learning to deal with the noise and pressure at the Olympics was when he was realised the only thing that mattered was his own process.

By 2003 Waddell felt he'd achieved everything he thought he could in rowing and swapped to sailing.

Mr Allison asked about the failed 2013 Emirates Team New Zealand challenge for the America's Cup, where they were beaten by Oracle Team USA, an experience Waddell said was "humiliating," although he emphasised how proud he was of the team.

Waddell also spoke about his time as chef de mission in Rio, his decision to return to rowing in 2008 and his respect for, and rivalry with, fellow rower Mahe Drysdale, alongside humorous anecdotes from his home and sporting life.

The other guest speakers were Paralympian swimmer Rebecca Dubber and Olympian rower Julia Edward of Rotorua.

Rotorua deputy mayor Dave Donaldson said all three speakers were inspirational and commanded the attention of the audience.

"I was amazed at the number of people who attended to support the event. It was great support from the community - the Rotary clubs put on a huge effort to organise this and the public and businesses that attended. It was a fabulous occasion for a great cause."

The major beneficiaries from the auction are St Chad's Charitable Trust, Heart Foundation Rotorua and Plunket Rotorua.

Other beneficiaries are Rotorua Chaplaincy Trust, Older Persons' Community Centre (Parksyde), Big Brothers Big Sisters, Rotorua Trails Trust, Kiwican, Tipu Ora and Lifelink
Samaritans Rotorua.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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