Variety show to help bereaved

SUPPORT: Richard Harris has been aided by a trust since losing his wife to cancer.
SUPPORT: Richard Harris has been aided by a trust since losing his wife to cancer.

A Manawatu family has experienced the first-hand benefits of a charitable trust set up to support the relatives of air force staff who die in tragic circumstances.

The Missing Wingman's Trust - which started in 2010 after a string of air force staff were killed, including Dan Gregory, Hayden Madsen and Ben Carson in the Anzac Day Iroquois crash, and Nick Cree in a Red Checkers training crash - will hold its second annual variety show in Palmerston North on July 27.

Funds from the trust can be used for things such as tertiary education and to fill the gaps in the lives of families by organising activities the children would have done if their relatives were still alive.

But it is not just pilots and crewmen who are missed.

Air force Sergeant technician Richard Harris' wife Claire lost her battle with cancer in 2010, leaving Sergeant Harris to bring up their three boys, aged 12, 10 and 6, on his own. He said the trust helped him and his children cope with their loss.

"It's things like Christmas-time when someone shows up on the doorstep with toys and things for the kids that it makes you realise that people care and are thinking about you. It makes a bad situation a little bit better," said Sergeant Harris. "It's a chance for us as a community to acknowledge and to remember people we have lost, but to do that in a positive light," event organiser Squadron Leader Tim Costley said.

After the trust was set up, a list of people who would benefit from its mandate quickly formed, he said.

"Maybe someone was an avid sportsman or into sailing and they are no longer around to share that passion with their kid," he said. "We can send them to a sports camp, we can send them to Outward Bound, we can send them to someone else to pick up what they might have picked up from their dad or their mum."

Squadron Leader Costley said the concert had a great line-up with comedians - including Billy T Award winner Nick Gibb - bands, cultural groups and entertainers from the Ohakea Air Force Base.

Tickets for the Regent on Broadway show can be bought from Ticketdirect.

Manawatu Standard