Kindness of strangers touches family in time of need

GOOD TURN: Carol and Barry Keech were overwhelmed by the Gladstone community support when their son could return to Brisbane following the death of Mr Keech’s father.
GOOD TURN: Carol and Barry Keech were overwhelmed by the Gladstone community support when their son could return to Brisbane following the death of Mr Keech’s father. LAURA MCKEE

CAROL and Barry Keech were touched by an act of kindness when an anonymous member of the public paid for their son to return home after his grandfather died.

Brisbane resident Jesse Keech made it just in time to see his 90-year-old granddad Robert Keech before Robert passed away on October 22.

Jesse flew to Gladstone and had planned on driving his car, which was kept at his parents' Clinton home, back to Brisbane 

The 21-year-old realised the car wasn't roadworthy, and was unable to drive home in time for work at 5pm the following day.

Jesse and his parents didn't have enough money to pay for a flight, but all was not lost.

Long term family friend Shelly Holzheimer posted a plea for help on Facebook, and was gobsmacked by the overly generous response from the Gladstone community.

People offered lifts to Brisbane and money via a Facebook post, with an anonymous woman paying for a one-way Virgin flight for Jesse.

Carol and Barry, who are both profoundly deaf, were thankful for the compassion of the woman and the rest of the community.

"I didn't know what to do. A big thank you for Gladstone," Mrs Keech said.

Jesse was equally stunned by what happened.

"I absolutely couldn't believe the generosity of everyone that helped," Jesse said.

Mr Keech, who also has cerebral palsy, began crying when asked how he felt.

He said "thank you" to Gladstone for helping his beloved son.

"Jesse has a good heart. He loved my mum and dad," he said.

Mrs Holzheimer, who acted as an interpreter for during The Observer's interview, was glad she could help her friends out, who faced a huge barrier when it came to asking for help.

"I couldn't believe how many people rang me and posted on Facebook. It was in one hour," Mrs Holzheimer said.

"I don't know what would have happened if I didn't put the post out.

"Poor Carol was so upset and they have huge communication issues. I guess Jesse would have just hitch-hiked."

Mrs Keech was glad her son, an Australian Navy cadet, had the chance to hold his grandfather's hand for the last time.

"He fixed the CD player that had been broken for three months so his grandad could listen to his favourite song," she said.


It was the right thing to do

THE 49-year-old woman who helped the Keech family, and who wishes to remain anonymous, said there were only three seats left on the flight when Jesse Keech needed to get back to Brisbane.

"I thought it was the right thing to do," she said.

"The circumstances were intense for the family and the last thing you want to think about is getting somebody from A to B."

She has done this more than once.

"I just like a bit of old fashioned community spirit," she said.

"I like to help in my own way and I don't need kudos for it."

The New Auckland resident has paid for school and university fees, and flights for people in the past who desperately need to travel to Brisbane for medical reasons.

She believes the rest of Gladstone has a lot to give, too.

"I think there is great room in Gladstone for a community chest where we raise money for situations like this," she said.

Topics:  community giving gladstone virgin airlines

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