ON POINT: The Ride West crew of Michael Williams, Alex Griffiths, Andrew Perkins, Bill Maddock, Don Chandler and John Sloman heading from Brisbane to Barcaldine.
ON POINT: The Ride West crew of Michael Williams, Alex Griffiths, Andrew Perkins, Bill Maddock, Don Chandler and John Sloman heading from Brisbane to Barcaldine. Contributed

Pedal to mental health services

BY THE time you are reading this, Don Chandler will be psyching himself up for the last leg of his 1237km bike ride from Brisbane to Longreach.

The 53-year-old father of four was feeling nervous and apprehensive about embarking on the seven-day journey but said the bigger picture of supporting the Royal Flying Doctor Service - and in particular their work helping bring mental health resources to remote Queensland - was fuelling him on.

A few days before hitting the road, Mr Chandler told the Rural Weekly he thought the last leg would be the most challenging.

"It's a big ride, 240km," he said.

"But I have been told the adrenalin from the fact we are nearly there spurs you on.

"There is also the great lure of a quiet beer at the Wellshot, which I think by then I will be looking forward to."

Although Mr Chandler has made a career for himself in Brisbane, working in the centre of the capital city's CBD, he has strong ties to rural Queensland.

"I grew up the youngest of four boys on a sheep and cattle property near Barcaldine," he said.

"I went to boarding school in Brisbane and ended up studying and staying down here."

Mental health and suicide, as it has for many Australians, has touched Mr Chandler personally.

He is dedicating the ride to Pru Chandler, his niece whose life was cut short at 30 after a long struggle with anxiety and mental health issues.

"She will be my inspiration along the way," he said.

"It's been a big part of my focus.

"Her family are right behind it, they will be in Longreach to watch us ride in."

Sadly this month, Mr Chandler also lost a school mate to suicide. The death left him shocked but more determined to fundraise for the RFDS.

The idea for RideWest was founded in 2009 when Queensland business leader Les Hancock learnt the suicide rate of outback Queensland graziers was 30per cent higher than their coastal counterparts.

Flash-forward to today, the charity is close to raising a total of $1 million for the RFDS.

The flying doctors service will always hold a special place in Mr Chandler's heart.

"They really do unbelievable work in challenging conditions," he said.

"If you learn about the people and places they get to, the stories of retrieval and survival are extraordinary.

"They are not like a normal clinical hospital situation, they adapt brilliantly."

So far Mr Chandler has raised more than $20,000 for RideWest on his Every Day Hero page.

On the site he wrote: "My dear Mum, who grew up at Ilfracombe, said I was a 'silly old fool'. I suspect she may be right.

"Overall I have had great support but in some cases I think there has been a reaction of amazement."

Mr Chandler said he had thought about doing the ride in the past and he closely watched the team during the 2016 event on social media.

"I have to confess because of my age and fitness I always thought it was something that would be well out of my league," he said.

"But I got talked into it and as I got closer to making a commitment I pushed send and here I am."

Now after completing a "fairly consistent" training program, he said he felt fitter than he had in 30 years.

"I have lost a bit of weight," he said.

"The team has been truly wonderful, I can tell you they have pushed me up some hills and there have been days when I have fallen into my car to drive home."

There is still time to donate, visit www.ridewest2018.everydayhero.com/au/don-chandler.


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