Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The Starlight Fund was set up in 2012 by Mike and Jenny Ballantyne in order to share the resources they have been blessed with and to honour Mike’s brother Paul Ballantyne who died in January 2011 after a six month battle with melanoma. Our goals are to improve the lives of many, inspire others to give, and to keep the memory of Paul alive.

Since setting the fund up projects include providing luxury goose-down pillows to cancer patients in New Zealand and sponsoring the build of a St John ambulance in Auckland.

Mike and Paul founded iMall Brands in 2004, later renamed Online Republic. By 2012 it had booked 500,000 car rentals, 50,000 motorhome holidays, and cruises for over 100,000 passengers, and had offices based in Auckland, Melbourne, Shenzhen and London. Once we shared the story of the Starlight Fund with our business partners and staff at Online Republic, it was clear that many were moved by the projects and they became highly motivated to make personal contributions as well. Thus the baton has been handed over and the Starlight Fund is now being funded by Online Republic and its staff. Mike and Jenny continue to support the Starlight Fund outside of the business, as well as their own charitable projects.

Paul Ballantyne
The Starlight Fund has been set up to honour Paul Ballantyne – a relatively unknown but highly successful kiwi entrepreneur. As he was an inspiration to many, we hope that these projects will be an inspiration to you.

Paul suffered from brain tumours caused by melanoma and as a brother/brother-in-law of Mike and Jenny Ballantyne we gave him a luxury Novadown hungarian goosedown pillow which he found to be a huge comfort (see more about this in The Pillow Project below). Sadly for us Paul died in January 2011 just a month before his 44th birthday. However, we celebrate Paul’s life and would like to share a bit of his story with you.

Paul was a remarkable visionary and had achieved more in his lifetime than many will in a lifespan twice his. A friend compared him to a comet that travels at great speed, has a brilliant flash of light, and leaves a long trail after it has gone. Paul did things at 90 miles an hour, worked hard, but also stopped to enjoy the good things in life – he had a saying “Tramping and Camping” to express this concept.

However, although he is gone from sight he is not out of our minds and hearts.

Paul was a man who;
- loved getting the absolute most out of life
- had many ideals and loved to create formulas
- was a visionary and a planner
- boldly embarked on new initiatives
- walked the hard road of many life lessons to get to where he was (i.e. he made mistakes and learnt from them)

- believed you had to work the business to understand it and move it forward
- worked hard and rewarded himself and others generously

Paul wasn’t concerned with public accolades, and quietly enjoyed success without feeling like he needed to shout about it. By the age of 43 he lead and co-lead successful businesses across the travel, recruitment and promotional industries employing over 135 people. He was driven to revolutionise categories and equally motivated by seeing his colleagues achieve success.

He was an amazing chef, regularly cooking up feasts consisting of several courses for large groups of family and friends. Originally having trained and worked as a fashion designer he later used his sharp design eye to design and furnish his Auckland apartment and the Online Republic Britomart offices. He loved to travel and had explored most corners of the world, several times over.

He was also a loving Dad to two daughters, a 'soul-mate' to his wife Sharon, and a cherished friend of many.

He was passionate about helping his colleagues, staff and friends achieve success at work and in their own lives, and influenced work colleagues to better themselves including challenging them to give up smoking and empowering others to take the helm once he was gone. 

Paul (saluting) with his friends and workmates Andy (far left) and Mark (front)  
on their way to an Online Republic staff gathering at Waiheke Island in 2009.

The Pillow Project
Our first project was buying luxury pillows for cancer sufferers. Paul took great comfort in a pillow that Mike gave him when he became ill - it was a top of the line hungarian goosedown pillow (made in Dunedin though so it's great to support a kiwi business) - and we thought it was a nice idea to extend to other people who are terminally ill and/or bed ridden. Small comforts like this can make a difference to the quality of life when you are really sick. 

The feedback we've had from the first 25 pillows we distributed (as a pilot programme around August 2012) via The Cancer Society was incredible, humbling and brought tears to our eyes. Patients are really appreciative of this support. While the pillows are expensive (they normally retail for around $350 each) we have a fantastic partnership with the manufacturer of the pillows who are supplying them to us around wholesale price so we plan to roll out hundreds of pillows over the next few years.

"This feather pillow is comfortable. It helps and relaxes my back as well as helping with my breathing."

"Yes, I am using the pillow and find it makes a difference. It gives warmth and comfort to my neck as it moulds to suit you. It helps to relieve the pain and makes it less. It's a great invention, a ripper - couldn't be beaten".

"Thank you for my pillow. Yes I am using it. It's beautiful, with losing my hair my head gets very cold. The pillow keeps my head warm. Thank you so much, it was a lovely surprise to receive."

"I normally sleep 3-4 hours - since using the pillow I am sleeping 6-7 hours per night. Thank you."

An Ambulance for St Johns
Our second project is considerably larger - we are donating $200,000 to St John to cover the cost of an ambulance build. On top of that,
Online Republic and Online Republic staff are donating funds to provide essential equipment for the ambulance. The ambulance will be sign-written with "Starlight Fund - In honour of Paul Ballantyne" and will be seen coming to the rescue around Auckland in Feburary 2013.

Ambulance Service overview
On average, St John responds to 1000 calls for assistance daily throughout the country (excluding Wellington and Wairarapa). These are predominantly accidents and medical emergencies across the range, although also include supporting the Fire Service, Police and other emergency services.

The fleet consists of over 600 emergency ambulances, patient transfer ambulances, rapid response units and first response units which are augmented by specialist units such as motorbikes, a Command Unit and a Multiple Casualty Incident response capability.

Emergency Ambulances

·      These are built on a Mercedes chassis with the fit-out undertaken here in New Zealand
·      Each commissioned vehicle comes with all electronic gear and main stretcher fitted. Other equipment is transferred from vehicle to vehicle and replaced when needed, independent of the vehicle build
·      To maintain the fleet, St John commissions the building of 46 new ambulances each year
·      Each Ambulance takes approximately 3 months to build - we have regular builds throughout the year
·      The average life of these vehicles is 8 years or 500,000 km. It is standard practice for a new vehicle to be assigned to high volume workload areas and then to be stepped down over the life of the vehicle to balance age and kilometres travelled.
·      Each ambulance is crewed according to the clinical capabilities relevant to that particular ambulance. There are three levels of clinical capability of both paid staff and volunteers.
·      Emergency Medical Technician is the base-line qualification. Every ambulance is required to have at least one crew member qualified at this level
·      Paramedics are the backbone of all urban services. Each vehicle is crewed by a paid staff or volunteer officer qualified at this level, supported by an Emergency Medical Technician. These Officers are capable of providing intravenous fluids and a limited number of drugs.
·      Intensive Care Paramedics are primarily confined to paid staff operating in urban settings, although some volunteers have this level of skill competence. Supported by either an Intermediate Care Paramedic of Emergency Medical Technician, these Officers are capable of providing advanced clinical care.
·      All Operational staff undergo formal training to gain their qualification level and are required to undertake regular Continuing Clinical Education to maintain competence at that level. Initial training is increasingly being made available through the Tertiary Education Sector but Continuing Clinical Education is provided by St John.

Our thanks
These projects have been made possible by the team work of many wonderful people. We would like to express our sincere thanks to the following –

-    Auckland Communities Foundation (ACF) who Mike and Jenny partner with. ACF manage funds for us, provide advice and add value to the way we work with charitable organisations. We are very grateful to them for their professional, friendly and hard-working input in to these projects. For more information about ACF see: www.aucklandcf.org.nz

-    Cancer Society who we partner with to distribute the pillows. We are very thankful for their input in to this project and the care they provide. For more information about this project contact: moira@cancer.org.nz

-    Novadown who have been extremely generous and provided top-range goose-down pillows at a very generous bulk order discount price.

-    Thread Design who have also been very kind and generous with time, expertise and organising the supply of the high quality pillow cases for the project. For retail information see: www.threaddesign.co.nz


Please direct any questions you have regarding the above projects to the following email and we will endeavour to get back to you as soon as possible: enquire@onlinerepublic.com

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