Being unwell himself has inspired Robert Bartley and his family and supporters to start a new organisation focused on providing health care to people wherever they are.
The Robert Bartley Foundation was started in late 2020, co-ordinator Philippa Ivory said.
Its first initiative is to fit out a former library bus donated by Whanganui District Council to deliver health services for the nearly 70,000 people in the Whanganui District Health Board (WDHB) region.
It is an encouraging project for the communities within the board's rohe (territory) and it supported the board's Thriving Communities vision, chief executive Russell Simpson said.
Bartley got the bus idea after seeing people travelling to Palmerston North to receive cancer care and treatment, as he was.
"I thought there must be some way to make it easier on them and their families, and after reading an article about the library bus being retired it just became an obvious fit," he said.
The council was delighted to donate the bus to such a worthy initiative, Whanganui mayor Hamish McDouall said.
"The support from elected members was unanimous."
The bus will cost more than $100,000 to fit out and be used by WDHB employees, taking immunisations, health checks and screening to places like Bulls, Marton, Taihape, Waiouru, Raetihi and Ohakune and to major events.
At the moment staff drive to region towns in their cars, set up, provide services and then pack down before driving home. Having the bus set up and ready to go will be great for them, Ivory said.
The local provision will also be convenient for rural people.
"The bus is also likely to be involved in the roll out of the Covid-19 vaccine when this is available to the community," Simpson said.
The vehicle was parked up at the central Whanganui Masters Games site earlier this month, and got a lot of attention. People have been registering their support for it at www.healthbusproject.co.nz.
A second project, and one that is dear to Bartley's heart, is a smaller specialist vehicle to take chemotherapy to people. He has had the treatment himself, and knows how tired and ill people can be feeling as they travel home after it.
The specialist vehicle will be attached to the new regional chemotherapy service that is to be set up in Whanganui, using $800,000 that Government promised in January last year.
The Bartley family group of businesses decided it wanted to start the foundation in order to ensure its donations achieve maximum impact, Ivory said. The businesses are an eclectic lot, including Ray White Whanganui, Mellonsfolly Ranch, Ali Arc Industries and Wanganui Finance.
On the trust are Robert Bartley's wife Ann and children Angela Penaluna, John and Brendon Bartley and Sarah Bartley-Leguizamon. Other trustees are Jim Bibby, Anthony Knight and Avon McDonald.
Robert Bartley was awarded a Queen's Service Medal in September 2019 for services to the community.
He contributes toward secondary school and adult sports awards and business awards, and sponsors individual sportspeople. Bartley family businesses employ many people across the region.