GYMPIE racing identity and philanthropist Stan Johnston was on his way to a race meeting in Cairns yesterday but, as is often the case, his mind was on ways to best help the drought stricken families of outback Queensland.
The Kenilworth Craiglea stud principal, supported by wife Marilyn, daughter Krystle and a band of helpers, has worked tirelessly for the past two years co-ordinating multiple projects to ease the burden of families devastated by the drought.
Using his connections within the racing industry Mr Johnston has raised money and tapped into public generosity to deliver thousands of bales of hay, tonnes of grain, thousands of dollars in cash relief, hundreds of Christmas hampers, solar power systems and even a holiday for one drought-hit family dealing with suicide.
In Gympie on Tuesday night, Mr Johnston addressed the first ever combined meeting of the Gympie, Gympie South and Mary Valley Lions clubs.
His mission was to persuade them to make his most recent cause - to supply 150 iPads to remote students of the Longreach, Charleville and possibly Mt Isa Schools of the Air - a recipient of their fundraising.
Gympie South Lions club spokesman and Stan Johnston fan, Ray Zerner, said Mr Johnston's presentation in the RSL Orchid Room touched everyone there.
"It was an amazing talk," Mr Zerner said.
"I knew what to expect but a lot of people did not and they were just blown away by how bad it is out there.
"People had tears in their eyes after Stan had finished.
"Even one of the waitresses came up to Krystle after the presentation with tears in her eyes and said she wanted to help."
Mr Johnston showed the clubs some video footage illustrating the impact of the drought, and Krystle read out some of the emails from families they had helped.
So bad is the drought in many parts of western Queensland that another Stan Johnston project, Kickstart, is on hold until it rains.
Kickstart aims to deliver donated horses and cattle to residents of drought devastated areas.
But Mr Johnston is confident the iPad drive will exceed his expectations, with the Brisbane RNA coming on board and a recent teaming-up with the Daniel Morcombe Foundation generating thousands of dollars for the project.
The Morecombe Foundation asked Craiglea for a share in one of its racehorses to auction for the charity.
Mr Johnston agreed, but added his own caveat.
Consequently, a 5% share of Craiglea Blitz was auctioned off for $8000 for the Morecombe Foundation, and a 5% share in Craiglea Deaken was also auctioned off, raising $6000 for the School of the Air at Longreach.