The Coo-Wee Ride back on the road again to help veterans and their families

Matt Aldridge is gearing up support for a veterans retreat in Goorombat, Victoria. Picture: Rob Gunstone - The Standard.

Fundraising farmer Matt Aldridge, from Northwood, Victoria, will be back on the road in March to raise funds and awareness for veterans struggling with mental health issues and their families.

The Coo-Wee Ride founder will ride over 140 kilometres from Tallarook to the summit of Mount Buller and back again on Wednesday, 24 March, to help raise the $40,000 for the Goorambat Veterans Retreat, a not-for-profit charity providing welfare and crisis accommodation support for veterans of Australia’s Defence Forces.

The retreat, which is just under 15 minutes West of Benalla, plans to build four, seven by three and a half metre sleeping cabins, ‘bedroom pods’, for veterans from around the country who visit the Retreat for respite, and wellbeing support.  

Each pod costs about $10,000 each to build, and Matt, who has raised thousands of dollars to support veterans since he started his charity in 2016, couldn’t wait to get back on his bike to raise the money for all four pods.

“These sleeping pods will help veterans who are suffering from a range of health issues including post-traumatic stress disorder and depression,” Matt said.

“The retreat will also give homeless veterans the opportunity to take shelter whilst making further arrangements for their long-term needs. Veterans are also supported by other veterans and families using the Retreat’s camping ground for recreation and holiday purposes. It’s a place where they can get the support they need to achieve their goals and get their lives back on track.”

Matt wasn’t able to take part in his annual charity bike ride last year, because of COVID-19, and is looking forward to getting back on the bike.

“The ride up to the summit of Mount Buller will certainly test the legs. Our rides are usually longer, but because of COVID, I wanted to keep it as local as possible this year,” he added.

Phil Thomson served in the Australian Army for 20 years before founding the charity, Goorambat Veterans’ Retreat Incorporated, which purchased the old primary school property for veterans in 2019.  It is now supporting Veterans facing personal hardship while Phil and his wife have continued to work with the charity to improve facilities on the three-acre property ever since.

“It’s a great location for veterans to come to enjoy a bit of respite and just relax,” Phil said.

“Our sleeping pods are only bedrooms, and they have been designed that way intentionally so that maximum use is made of the communal spaces developed in the old school buildings. Veterans’ are then encouraged to interact with each other so that they do not feel alone. Engaging with others and peer support is an important part of the healing process.

“It’s great that charities such as Matt’s are chipping in to help, and it’s really nice to know that every dollar raised will be going directly to veterans who need it, and is not being frittered away on administrative overheads.  If any local businesses out there think they can help out in any way, please let me know.”

Phil is encouraging those to support Matt’s fundraising efforts to donate via https://www.givenow.com.au/organisation/public/5186. The retreat has DGR status and all donations are tax deductible.

You can follow Matt’s journey to raise funds for the retreat on The Coo-Wee Ride’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/cooweeride.

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Ryan Fritz

Ryan Fritz started The Advocate in 2014 to provide not-for-profits and charities another media platform to tell their worthwhile hard news stories and opinion pieces effortlessly. In 2020, Ryan formed a team of volunteer journalists to help spread even more high-quality stories from the third sector. He also has over 10 years experience as a media and communications professional for not-for-profits and charities and currently works at Redkite, a childhood cancer charity.

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