Steven Wooldridge
Steven Wooldridge Nev Madsen

Help big-hearted volunteer get to Commonwealth Games

STEVEN Wooldridge has dreamt of lending a hand at next year's Commonwealth Games from the moment the Gold Coast won hosting rights in 2011.

Now, with a golden ticket finally in his grasp, the kind-hearted soul from Toowoomba faces the unthinkable prospect of not being able to attend due to the huge cost of accommodation during the sporting festival.

"Ever since the Games were announced he has been setting aside a little bit of money from his disability pension," Ashleigh Baker said of her 54-year-old uncle, who has an intellectual impairment and has successfully applied to volunteer at the event.

"He's been saving for five years and has a limited amount of money managed through the public trustee, but we're starting to realise he won't have enough.

Steven Wooldridge.
Steven Wooldridge.

"We've explored options through respite services on the Gold Coast to save paying huge, exorbitant (accommodation) fees but had no luck. The thought of him missing out would be devastating."

Mr Wooldridge is something of a celebrity in Toowoomba.

He gives up his time twice a week to deliver newspapers to patients at Toowoomba Base Hospital.

He's volunteered for years at events such as Easterfest and the Carnival of Flowers.

Last year his passion for collecting pens from local businesses - about 40,000 across 15 years - even morphed into an art exhibition that became an "internet sensation".

Then there's what his niece calls his "crowning achievement" - volunteering at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.

"That's something he still talks about all the time," Ashleigh said.

"Volunteering gives him a purpose and these experiences are lifelong for him. People with a disability don't always get an opportunity to do things we take for granted but Steven always lives his life to the fullest.

"He's never let his disability impact on what he wants to achieve in life."

Including being part of the biggest show the Gold Coast has ever hosted.

"I've been looking forward to it for five years to be precise," Steven said. "I signed up (to be a volunteer) as soon as I could."

Ashleigh added: "It's all he's talked about since the Gold Coast won the Games. He's a very proud Queenslander so he's very excited it's going to be in our back yard.

Ashleigh Baker has launched a campaign to get her uncle Steven Wooldridge to the Gold Coast Games:
Ashleigh Baker has launched a campaign to get her uncle Steven Wooldridge to the Gold Coast Games:

"He loves to chat and I'm positive everyone in Toowoomba would be aware he's going to be a volunteer at the Games on the Gold Coast."

But only if he can find a way to finance accommodation, meals and a hire car for himself and a support worker, which isn't going to be easy.

"Tell me about it," Steven said. "The last time I had a look online, the cheapest package I could put together was $9900 for two weeks."

In a bid to help her uncle realise his dream, Ashleigh has now launched a Go Fund Me campaign with a target of $8000.

"She's one of a kind," Steven said of his niece.

To lend your support, visit Go Fund Me and search for 'Help the Penman get to GC2018'.

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