St John Katikati's newest ambulance has been named after a boy who was saved after falling into a freezing pond.

The Wright Family Foundation funded the full $216,000 cost of a new ambulance for St John Katikati.

The new ambulance, which will service Katikati and surrounding areas, can be recognised on the roads by its personalised number plate: "2DRESQ" (to the rescue).

The ambulance has been called "Benny", named after Hibiscus Coast 12-year-old Benny McSweeney, who was saved by St John after he fell into a freezing pond at Auckland Domain when he was 20 months old.


Wright Family Foundation chief Chloe Wright was inspired to donate an ambulance after reading Benny's story in a letter from St John.

"I see Benny as everyone's child. We are all vulnerable - everyone at some time has a connection to someone who needs an ambulance, and we are so fortunate to have this service available to us," she said.

"St John does an incredible job and we are so grateful for their service, saving the lives of people just like Benny every day."

As an Ōmokoroa resident, Wright was concerned about the road between Tauranga and Katikati, backing calls for it to be widened to four lanes with a median barrier to curb its mounting death toll.

"St John is quite literally the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, and unfortunately we need them even more due to the state of this road," she said.

"Every time I see or hear an ambulance I call all my family members who live in the area to make sure they are okay."

Benny's mother, Lydia McSweeney, said the family was forever grateful to St John for saving Benny's life, and was honoured to have an ambulance named after their son.

St John territory manager Ross Clarke said the ambulance has an improved interior based on feedback from ambulance officers, allowing staff to remain seated while treating patients.

The ambulance comes with a PowerLoad Stryker Stretcher making lifting and transporting patients easier, improving safety for patients and ambulance officers alike.

"Donations like this are essential to St John meeting the growing demand on ambulance services as we constantly strive to improve the quality and equity of our services," Clarke said.

"As a charity, St John needs support from the community, and this generous donation from the Wright Family Foundation means both Katikati and the surrounding communities will have the best possible care available to them."

What is the Wright Family Foundation?
The Wright Family Foundation is a not-for-profit registered charitable trust dedicated to making a positive difference by "growing the good" in New Zealand communities by supporting education and health initiatives.