Northland Rescue Helicopter pilot Sue Dinkelacker has established an exclusive club for those who have been rescued by helicopter which will help raise money for rescue chopper services around the country.
To join the Haast Club a person, or friends and family of a person who has been rescued, purchase a collectible artwork sculpted by Sue, with at least half the purchase price going towards the helicopter trust of their choice.
Haast Club members can choose from a bronze lapel pin, a silver pendant and a bronze or silver paperweight/ ornament, with prices ranging from $128 to $2,300.
As a charity, the Northland Rescue Helicopter relies on community support and fundraising to continue providing a dedicated emergency rescue helicopter service for the people of Northland.
Sue says the Haast Club is a way for those who have been helped by a rescue helicopter service to give back financially and a way for them to acknowledge the life-changing experience they went through.
“As New Zealanders, we are incredibly fortunate to have so many rescue helicopters, which can come to our aid in even the most remote regions. This is a tribute to the charitable trusts built up by individual communities over decades.
“I find it remarkable that the patient or person rescued is flown without question and without charge. This is not the case in the rest of the world, where often evidence of insurance or a credit card is required prior to transport,” she says.
Inspired by the eagle that snatched Gandalf to safety in the Tolkien stories, the Haast Club artworks depict the largest eagle ever to have existed in the world, the extinct New Zealand Haast eagle.
Sue first began fashioning sculptures out of wood using hand chisels to pass time while on standby for rescue missions. Something that started out as merely a hobby quickly turned into a lucrative second job. Now, her sculptures sell for nearly $20,000.
Her most well-known work is a bronze sculpture called ‘Hand Holding Young Kiwi’, which is on public display at the Quarry Gardens in Whangarei. Sue says her two passions, sculpting and flying, seemed to come together serendipitously to create the Haast Club.
“As a rescue pilot myself, I see every day how essential the service is. I know how expensive it is to purchase these helicopters, maintain them, and provide the skilled pilots and paramedics to man them, not to mention the cost of ongoing training for everyone involved.
“I also see the impact on the people and their families who we help. Sometimes when I’m in uniform strangers will come up to me to pass on their appreciation from a flight that took place years ago. What we do has far reaching effects,” she says.
To join the Haast Club or for more information, visit https://haastclub.com/