4WD: Kicking in for kids
The Variety 4WD Challenge - Highest Fundraisers Con Collica and Clive Hartz. Picture: Camilla Spry

Aussies love to have a bash. If it involves getting behind the wheel and away from the city with some mates, why wouldn't you want to give it a go?

The Variety Club realised the potential in 1985 when Dick Smith led the first Bashers in old cars to put the "fun" into fundraising.

Sixteen years ago the off-road fraternity cottoned on, and the 2012 Coleman Variety 4WD Challenge recently wrapped up a fast-paced, nine-day adventure from Mt Newman to Kakadu.

Inspired by the desire to brighten the lives of kids who struggle with disability, serious illness or disadvantage; about 30 teams took on the serious challenge of obtaining sponsorship and donations before touring off-road through regional towns and communities.

The event was sponsored by long-term supporters Don and Darinka Brooker of Coleman Camping, and capably organised by event chairman Evan Briers.

The 4WD Challenge provides obstacles for the seasoned off-road driver but with full mechanical back-up, support and guidance to ensure the safety and enjoyment of those who may not yet have ventured off the blacktop.

The vehicles were crewed by couples, brothers, in-laws and best friends. And it wasn't just for blokes. Nearly half the participants were women, including one all-female crew.

While all vehicles must meet basic safety standards and carry communication equipment, the rigs ranged from stock-standard "fourbies" to highly modified beasts. It was useful to have those along - especially when the Mt Keppler Station vehicle got bogged and needed Team 324, AJ and Fitzy, to pull them free.

The 4WD Challenge participants passed through stations, enjoyed sunset on Cable Beach, played in the Fitzroy River and got bogged in the Ord.

2012 Variety 4WD Challenge - For West Wheels Off-Roading, Sat June 23rd 2012 - The Variety 4WD Challenge - Country music star Beccy Cole joined Variety 4WD participants and local station owners for a surprise show. Picture: Camilla Spry
A day of spectacular sightseeing in the gorges over the Bungle Bungles got even better when award-winning country and western singer Beccy Cole put on a surprise concert under the stars.

Energy levels were boosted with a stunning show from performance group eMDee, who needed only the drums and didgeridoo to get everyone jumping to a powerful beat.

A happy group is a well-fed group - the event organisers prove that every trip and this year exceptional food was served every inch of the way. Bluewater Grill's head chef Brad Leahy and Scott Richardson served up meals you'd expect out of their restaurant, not the middle of the outback.

Along the way, participants got to meet some of the kids their fundraising was helping and made a presentation to the Nullagine Remote Community who received a $1000 book voucher to stock up their library.

Anthony Palmer, 10, and Matt Saraza, 6, who live near Broome and cope with the impact of cerebral palsy, met the crew to thank everyone for their assistance.

The Variety Club funded the purchases of an electrically adjustable bed to assist Anthony with the postural support he needs, plus a wheelchair and mobility aids to assist Matt.

This year's challenge was a record-breaker, with participants raising a staggering $500,000 to help kids with special needs live, laugh and learn; something that most of us take for granted.

While every team worked hard to contribute to the kitty, the highest fundraiser honours went to Clive Hartz and Con Collica.

All the club's events book up fast. Get in early by checking out variety.org.au/wa/events if you'd like to join the next epic adventure or to find out how you can help these special kids.

The West Australian

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