It was beer, wine, sunshine and tunes at Dom Punch’s car park party with hundreds of guests throwing more than $42000 into the ring for the guest of honour.
The fundraiser, organised and hosted by Mr Punch’s former employer the George Tavern, saw more than 800 people buy tickets and pour into the pub’s car park on Saturday afternoon.
Mr Punch was injured in a rugby scrum one year ago playing for Maitland Blacks and uses a wheelchair.
The fundraiser was organised to purchase Mr Punch a specially modified car so he can drive and regain his independence.
He said he was overwhelmed by the turnout.
“It was a massive show of support by a range of sectors of the community,” he said.
“From the rugby club, my school friends, and of course the George Tavern community.”
After numerous fundraisers and events dedicated to him, Mr Punch said he was slowly acclimatising to the public limelight – but the size of yesterday’s outpouring came surprised him.
“I was expecting a couple of hundred [people], but word spreads quickly,” he said.
“Anyone who felt they had a connection to me was made to feel welcome.”
Mr Punch thanked the community for their support, adding that the $42,000 would get him most of the way to owning the van. All that would be left to buy are the expensive modifications.
“As unfortunate as my injury was, in contrast I feel incredibly lucky – ironically – to have it happen to me in this community,” he said. “I feel incredibly lucky to have this support around me.”
As well as ticket sales, raffle tickets to win a car did the rounds to huge success.
Staff are still tallying up the final total, but George Tavern director Janine Redman said she was already blown away by the result.
“There were more people than we expected but they were all there for the right reasons,” Ms Redman said.
“[Dom]’s a great guy, he’s well known and liked… so when you have an event like this everyone wants to be a part of it.”
Ms Redman said generous donations by her food, drink and entertainment suppliers meant Mr Punch would receive the total sum raised by the event.
The next fundraiser in the Dom Punch’s Dream to Drive series will be Dom’s Double Wicket Day at Lorn Park on November 13.
Tickets for the car raffle are still available through the George Tavern.