Riders prepare for the 7th annual Westpac Chopper Qt2Inv2017 Bike Ride

Jamie Searle of the Southland Times
Riders prepare for the 7th annual Westpac Chopper Qt2Inv2017 Bike Ride

Garry McLister is a regular fundraiser for rescue helicopters and six weeks ago, he needed one.

McLister came off his motocross bike at speed on the Shotover riverbed in Queenstown.

SEE ALSO: Westpac first to be awarded with Dementia-Friendly National Accreditation

A helicopter took him to Dunedin Hospital, where examinations revealed he had four broken ribs, three compressed and broken vertebraes, a dislocated finger, a torn thigh muscle, tissue damage in a shoulder and concussion.

"I was in [Dunedin] hospital for two weeks and then I had two weeks in the rehabilition centre at Wakari," McLister, of Queenstown, said.

Gary McLister 1

Gary McLister after his recent motorbike accident.

He wears a brace, from the hips up, during the day and sleeps on a hospital air mattress at night. His recovery is likely to take at least five months.

His wife Fiona said when she was at Garry's bedside in Dunedin Hospital, at least four helicopters landed and took off from there every day.

McLister's injuries will prevent him from competing in the annual Westpac Chopper Bike Ride from Queenstown to Invercargill, on May 12.

This year is the seventh ride and McLister has taken part in six.

"We've had to endure snow and cold temperatures [on some of the rides]," he said.

The ride starts at Frankton at 6am, with groups beginning at intervals. They ride in darkness for the first two hours.

Riders will stop at five schools on the journey - Garston, Dipton, Drummond, Isla Bank and Central Southland College.

A rescue helicopter will make a brief visit to the college while the riders have lunch there.

Reece McDonald, of Invercargill, has been taking riders on training runs in recently months. Some began their training in February.

Each of the 60 entrants in the 245-kilometre event is required to raise $1000. All money and donations received are given to the Lake Districts Air Rescue Trust, which operates helicopters out of Te Anau and Queenstown.

training for ride 1

Training for the big 245km ride coming up

Included in the bunch this year is 1990 Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist, Glenn McLeay, and 2017 World Master Champion, Erin Criglington.

McLister, a shift worker at the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter - three days and two nights on and four days off, has never had trouble raising his $1000. Most of it has come from work colleagues.

Murray Heath, a manager at Westpac, organises the yearly ride.

Heath said the delight on the riders' faces when they finish in Invercargill was special.

"It's very satisfying for them and they know they've raised a lot of money for a great cause.

"It's a ride, not a race, and it's amazing to get 60 riders each year to take part.

The six rides have raised a total of $300,000, Heath said.

The women competing this year are raising their money by holding a charity ball at Bill Richardson Transport World in Invercargill on April 29. The theme is recycle and reusable.

"One year, a lady's estate donated $100,000 [to the ride]," Heath said.

SEE ALSO: Westpac first to be awarded with Dementia-Friendly National Accreditation

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