Cooks Hill Surf Club has revealed a $70,000 makeover thanks to a volunteer fund-raising effort in honour of accident victim Angus ‘Gus’ McConnel.
Mr McConnel was seriously injured in a tragic cycling accident the week before Easter this year, which has seen him confined to a wheelchair.
As a result, Cooks Hill Surf Club members rallied to ensure their mate could continue to have access to the beach.
Modifications were made, allowing improved access to the beach for people with mobility impairments, including a ramp and rubber matting.
Club secretary John Wilson said the club swung into action as soon as Mr McConnel was injured to raise money for him.
The club has held a series of "US 4 GUS" fund-raisers over the past 5 months.
But Mr McConnel wanted the funds to be spent on providing beach access for everyone, on as many beaches in Newcastle as possible.
Mr Wilson said the club raised $70,000 to support Mr McConnel, with $40,000 spent on this project
The remaining $30,000 is expected to be spent on a specially-designed wheelchair and hoist, and work at other beaches.
“This is a first for Newcastle and NSW and something we hope we can help provide for all of our beaches,” Mr Wilson said.
“It’s something we hope can be remembered as Angus’ legacy.”
Mr McConnel said he was overwhelmed by the support the club had shown him from the beginning.
“To have everybody, from the club’s hierarchy down, being so supportive of me and the family is just so unbelievably heart-warming,” Mr McConnel said.
Mr Wilson explained the modifications would improve access to the beach for many people.
He said the club had more than 800 Nippers members who often had grandparents take them to the beach.
“The access ramp will not only support those in a wheelchair but will make it easier for anyone with mobility difficulties,” Mr Wilson said.
He said the club had received enormous support from the community, with the contribution from volunteers helping keep costs down.