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Stan helps the outback cope

GIFTS OF HOPE: Beck Smith with some of the horses Stan Johnston and his racing mates are helping to keep alive.
GIFTS OF HOPE: Beck Smith with some of the horses Stan Johnston and his racing mates are helping to keep alive.

"THEY say it's not much, but it means a lot."

Single mum and Windorah farmer Beck Smith was talking about the Gympie racing industry initiative to help outback children keep their animal friends alive.

"It means a lot in the way of hope," she said this week.

Stan Johnston, whose Craiglea stud is frequently mentioned among the winners in Queensland country racing, used his racing connections to deliver that hope.

Ironically, Mr Johnston has brought forward his drought relief efforts in the west, in response to fears of wet and windy conditions along the northern coast.

"Stan is now planning his third trip this weekend," his wife Marilyn said yesterday.

Mr Johnston had previously said he would not be able to make his final delivery until March, because of racing commitments.

"We were supposed to be racing at Townsville on Tuesday, but Stan is worried about the weather, so he has decided to go to Cunnamulla instead," she explained.

Mr Johnston used his connections in racing radio, 4TAB, to organise a special effort for isolated horse lovers.

He and his racing mates throughout Queensland organised special deliveries of grain and hay to hungry horses all over Queensland.

A pioneer of 4TAB, Mr Johnston got onto his radio host colleague and Longreach newsagent Robbie Luck, who arranged to put out the word to isolated children via the School of the Air.

The children were asked if any of them needed hay for their horses, he said.

The response from the parched outback was "a lot bigger than I thought," he laughed.

With the help of River Junction stud at Tuchekoi and Gympie's Queensland Quality Hay, along with racing contacts at every town along the way, the team has personally delivered about six tonnes of grain and 2000 bales of hay.

"We wondered why people in racing would care about our stock horses, when they deal in thoroughbreds," Beck Smith said.

Stan himself gave the credit to others.

"There's a lot of nice people out there," he said.

Gympie Times