How a former ambo and Hollywood star are saving lives
IT WAS a letter Geoff Hicks wrote to Russell Crowe almost two decades ago that proved the catalyst to countless lives being saved in the Coffs Coast's hinterland.
Now, the former ambulance officer has been awarded an Order of Australia Medal.
Mr Hicks has been awarded for his selfless service as the founder of the Community First Responders volunteer group in Glenreagh in 2001, known as Heart Start, before assisting with the establishment of the Nana Glen, Coramba and Coutts Crossing groups.
The emergency units were set up in a bid to bridge the gap between waiting times for an ambulance to reach the country towns when an emergency strikes, which can take up to 45 minutes from Coffs Harbour or Grafton.
Whether it's delivering babies in cars or reviving those suffering heart attacks, a quick browse the The Advocate's previous stories shows Mr Hicks' dedication has been a saving grace throughout it all.
According to NSW Ambulance media, Mr Hicks wrote to Nana Glen resident Russell Crowe with an idea to establish the life-saving units - and the Oscar winner was well on board.
The Nana Glen and Coramba units were then established by Crowe and managed by his parents Alex and Jocelyn.
The Crowe family provided all the funds needed for the both the Nana Glen and Coramba units, as well as donating funds to the unit in Glenreagh.
The Hollywood star spent thousands on defibrillators that are used to keep people alive until an ambulance arrives.
Since then, the local CFR teams have made international headlines for their life-saving efforts, for example when 2-year-old Alexander Kenney was found floating face-down in a Nana Glen dam in 2015.
The Nana Glen CFRs were quickly on the scene, playing a significant role in saving the toddler's life.
But Mr Hicks' dedication to the community doesn't stop at just forming Heart Start.
He's was a volunteer trainer in first aid courses for St John Ambulance for 20 years. Currently, he's also a member of the Glenreagh Progress Association.