Biggles Bear ready to take flight

Earlier this month the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter received an unsolicited job application for an unusual addition to the crew.

Biggles Bear was put forward for a role with the Rescue Helicopter by his “mum” Shelley McDougall in a novel way.

“I’ve been writing children’s poems for a long time, but that one had special meaning,”

Biggles Bear’s backstory is both uplifting and humbling at the same time.

Shelley and her son Reuben moved to Perth, Western Australia in the mid-80s, and with such a vast area to cover the prominence of mobile emergency services such as the Royal Flying Doctors were evident in their new home.

“When we were living there my five-year-old Reuben demanded his pocket money to buy a bear,” recalled Shelley.

As it transpired the Royal Flying Doctors had an appeal for supporters to purchase a teddy bear and donate the money to the service.

And so, Biggles Bear was born.

The family moved around Australia with Biggles Bear staying possession with Shelley as his surrogate mother, and eventually returned to Taranaki in 2003 to be closer to family, renewing some old connections along the way.

“I actually met [Trust Chairman] Evan Cottam on my first day at West End Primary School, and we went through primary school and intermediate together. We renewed that contact recently, and I have a lot of admiration and respect for what he does.”

Shelley worked in a variety of roles within broadcast and marketing building a valuable bank of experiences along the way.

“Over my career I became really passionate in what I believed in and maybe that’s why Biggles has come to be such a treasured little creature. He is very special.”

Unfortunately, last year her son Reuben passed away after battling illness for a long time. The idea of gifting the treasured family item to the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter came via a connection with Base Manager and Pilot Mike Adair.

“I was sorting a few things and I thought, Biggles Bear needs a new home, and who better to go to than the flying doctors of Taranaki. I am living my life as best as I can, and I think Reuben would want Biggles to go to the Rescue Helicopter. It seems fitting given his origins.”

Shelley had noticed that TSB had come up with an initiative to support the youngest patients of the Rescue Helicopter earlier in the year. The Centre Branch team collected soft toys for the comfort of child patients being transported during missions.

But Shelley saw an opportunity to support the crew, despite having never had any direct or indirect contact with the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter.

“It’s become part of my life. I love it when I see them going places. You know they’re probably on their way to someone in need. But they’re my heroes. In my opinion they should be everyone’s heroes!”

“As I said in my poem I rush outside and wave at the helicopter, they would have no idea but I want to wish them well on their next venture.”

And while letting go of Biggles Bear may be tinged with sadness, Shelley approaches it with love and compassion.

“I have worked through my grief, it wasn’t how we thought life would pan out, but you have to accept what life hands out and make the best of it.”

“Finding a new home is a happy moment for me. Biggles Bear would love to come and work with the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter.”

A formal handover is still to be arranged but Shelley has some advice for Mike and the crew.

“He brushes his hair regularly and he always smells nice!”