Not-for-profit charities are the lifeblood of a civilised, egalitarian society, helping those who, through no fault of their own, are disadvantaged, sick and/or living with a disability.

Governments can only do so much, and it’s the passion and unwavering commitment of organisations like Variety which help people – in this case our most vulnerable members of society, children – reach their full potential.

Variety has a multitude of ways it can assist through grants, scholarships, dedicated programs, provision of life-changing mobility assets, financial counselling for affected families, and just treating kids to some good ‘old-fashioned fun!

The Variety support net is cast far and wide, but just as pivotal to the organisation’s efficacy is a solid and reliable revenue stream. One of the various fundraising activities under its umbrella is the iconic Yamaha Variety Jet Trek, which is now into its third decade as the pre-eminent charity personal watercraft event on the local calendar. It’s not only an event about spirit of generosity, but an adrenalin-fuelled one as well as participants blast their PWCs along some beautiful Aussie coastline.

In total, the ‘trekkers’ have raised a mind-boggling $2.4 million for Variety since its inception, and those who partake also get the chance to see the direct impact of how their generosity benefits hundreds of kids and families.

Two Yamaha Variety Jet Trek devotees are Queenslanders Paula and Greg Deighton, who are officially ‘legends’ based on participating in 10 events – and already signed up for their 11th, which will be held in Bateman’s Bay (NSW) from February 26 until March 4, 2023.

“My first real exposure to Jet Trek was on a television program and it showed this bunch of people raising money for Variety, riding personal watercraft, and we both said: ‘That’s something we’d like to do’,” recalled Paul. “Our first one was in 2013, and we’ve been hooked ever since, as it provides an opportunity to rider personal watercraft in Australia to places that we normally wouldn’t go on our own.

“Once we got involved with Jet Trek, what we saw with Variety and what they were doing for kids and families: that’s what hooked us and has kept us going every other year.”

Paula concurs, and also can’t get enough of the Jet Trek’s convivial nature. “The people that we’ve met, and when you go back the next year it’s just hugs all-round. It really is a family.”

Recently, Greg took two a very special child for a ride on his WaveRunner – nine-year-old Cruz Goodwin. Born with two major genetic defects which limit his physical and intellectual capacity, Cruz enjoyed an experience of a lifetime.

“The ride on the WaveRunner with Cruz was pretty special,” said Greg. “At first, I wasn’t sure if he was excited or scared, but his mum assured me that it was his excitable voice! He was having a ball, and that’s what it’s all about: putting smiles on the kids’ faces. And him mum was enjoying it as well, just seeing how excited he was. To give them that opportunity was just wonderful.”

Cruz’s mum, Tammy, wasn’t just soaking up her son’s excitement from the shore: she was also aboard as well!

“When we went on the WaveRunner I wasn’t sure how Cruz would cope with it because of sensory overload, but he just absolutely loved it,” said Tammy, who also has a daughter, Violet.

Cruz was born prematurely, and he had his first big operation when he was two weeks old – the start of periods of long stays in ECU on a ventilator.

“At nine months he was diagnosed with 2q37 deletion syndrome, and he was also born with another genetic condition where he has extra chromosomes on 12 – and that doesn’t have a name yet because it’s so rare,” said Tammy. “Cruz’s main challengers are his physical ability; he has needed wheelchairs and walkers and he also took his own steps when he was eight-and-a-half. And with his intellectual disability that has affected all areas, and he’s working on learning to talk as well.

“Cruz’s main passion in life is probably his sister, and it’s been life-changing for him to have a little mate to play with. Variety has opened up lots of opportunities for Cruz that we wouldn’t be able to do. The support has been amazing, and it just feels like someone is in your corner.”

Variety’s support for Cruz has included the provision of a wheelchair and walking frame.

“For a number of years we’ve helped young Cruz, who is an amazing young lad and his parents are beautiful people,” said Steve Wakerley, the CEO of Variety Queensland - Children’s Charity of Queensland. “We help kids who are sick, disadvantaged or living with disability. The way we help kids most is with granting of equipment and services to kids who need a bit of a hand in life.

“Variety raises a lot of money through our events, and there’s been millions and millions of dollars that’s been raised through the Yamaha Variety Jet Trek over its 25-year history.

“The impact that Yamaha has had on this event and the kids of Queensland can’t be undervalued – it’s incredible support that had made a difference to so many families.

“Without our support, and the support of the Yamaha Variety Jet Trek, kids like Cruz could not be mobile and have some freedom in life.

“All kids deserve a fair go in life. In 10 years’ time I would love that no kid falls through the cracks so we can impact on all kids and see that they reach their full potential.”

For more information on the 2023 Yamaha Variety Jet Trek, click here.