Darren and Laura Brown of Boomerangs Café have planned a three-day fundraiser to send funds back to Darren’s homeland of Australia, which has been ravaged by more than 100 wildfires since December 2019. (MIKE YOUDS/ Alberni Valley News)

Port Alberni café, pair of teens rally support for Australia bush fire relief

Boomerangs Café plans three-day fundraiser; teens prepare to help in wildlife recovery


Special to the News

Australia is on Darren Brown’s mind these days even though he’s called Canada his home for 30 years now.

The restaurateur and his wife, Laura — who operate the busy Boomerangs Café on Johnston Road in Port Alberni — are busier than usual this week, organizing a local fundraiser in support of the Australian bush fire disaster.

All proceeds from the café’s beer and burger fundraiser this weekend, Jan. 25-27, 2020, go to the New South Wales Fire Service in Australia, where Darren grew up.

As an added enticement, the café is raffling a couple of NHL tickets to the Feb. 16 match between the Vancouver Canucks and the Anaheim Ducks at Rogers Arena. They’re also accepting donated items through the week for a silent auction to be held during the weekend event. Donated auction items can be dropped off at the café.

On top of that, they’re donating 10 percent of their sales revenue to the same cause.

Canadians across the country have been opening their wallets, wanting to do more than merely watch from afar as the relentless disaster unfolds Down Under.

“I kept seeing different fundraisers online and thought we should be doing something,” Darren said. After all, they are “the Australian place” in town.

He grew up in New South Wales (NSW) and emigrated to Canada in 1992. Here, working in the restaurant trade, he met Laura, who grew up in Franklin River when it was a thriving community.

Local businesses, including Circle Dairy, Double R Meats and Vancouver Island Brewery, have pitched in as sponsors. Cash donations from café patrons are welcome as well.

Alberni youth Nick Wutke and his girlfriend Trinity Salewski decided they can be of greatest assistance by being on the ground in Australia, volunteering for a wildlife rescue service. Inspired by the enormous impact the fires are having on wildlife, the teens have taken online training and will undergo additional instruction before assisting with wildlife recovery missions in the outback. They are set to travel to Sydney and Wollongong, NSW, at month’s end to do field work for an organization called Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service (WIRES).

“Obviously we’re not trained to fight fires or do any of the more technical veterinary work, but this is something we can go and help with,” Wutke said.

He has relatives in Wollongong, so the couple will have accommodation for some of their brief stay. Still, they’ve been raising funds to offset the considerable costs of travel. FX Nite Club matched $200 raised last weekend while other local sponsors have stepped forward.

“It’s awesome,” said Wutke, 19. “It’s really great that so many people have stepped up to help make a difference. It shows that Canada cares.”

A group of local quilters is showing they care by knitting pouches for the couple to take to Australia. The pouches will be used to comfort orphaned wildlife.

A videographer who goes by the handle Nick TheSlayer, Wutke plans to document the experience so that others can follow their work. He urges others to donate to WIRES (https://www.wires.org.au/donate/emergency-fund) and will post blog updates on his YouTube channel: shorturl.at/nvxH6.

AustraliaAustralia firesCharity and DonationsPort Alberni

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Nicholas Wutke and Trinity Salewski of Port Alberni will be going to New South Wales, Australia, at the end of January to help with wildlife recovery following the devastating bushfires the country has seen. (SCREEN SHOT)

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