Veteran Beau King and his fiancée Stacey Lyon had planned to visit Europe towards the end of the year to accompany Beau’s kids who had been selected for an elite soccer tournament. Then COVID-19 hit and the trip was be cancelled.
So Beau and Stacey decided to spend the money on Woolworth’s vouchers and give them away to people in Townsville most affected by the pandemic.
They started off with forty-five $100 vouchers. Those went in three days. So they bought twenty more. Three days later, they too had gone. They have since bought twenty more.
Beau’s motivation was simple. He wanted to give back to a community that had given him so much.
Beau spent eight years in the Army, mostly in 2nd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment (2RAR) and served two tours to Iraq and one to Afghanistan. He was medically discharged in 2012, suffering from severe hearing loss incurred in Iraq when his Light Armoured Vehicle hit an improvised explosive device (IED). He was also suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Beau on deployment to Afghanistan in 2008. The Light Armoured Vehicle behind him is similar to the one he was in that hit an IED in Iraq.
Beau is from Brisbane but after discharge stayed in Townsville, where 2RAR is based. Though it was hard, he puts his successful transition to civilian life down to sport.
‘Sport was my saviour,’ he says. ‘I play touch football and one of my friends – who’s ex-1RAR – owns a gym. They’ve helped me do something else with my life. They’ve never judged or anything like that.
‘[But] now, a lot of our friends lost their jobs like so many and we’re in a position where we can make a bit of difference. We just brainstormed and supermarket vouchers were all we could think of with all the restrictions [relating to the COVID-19 lockdown].
‘We put the money to better use. We can go out without a holiday; most people can’t go without a job.’
People got in touch via Facebook. Beau and Stacey provided the vouchers to anyone who needed them, not just veterans. Though they were careful to ensure that those who approached them were genuinely needy.
‘We’ve had photos of what people have bought,’ says Beau. ‘People have left messages in our letterbox. We’re just trying to do the right thing. If we can make a little bit of difference, hopefully others who can do so will do the same. In life, you can’t always take. It works both ways.
Beau recognises too that the effects of the coronavirus on people’s lives are likely to have a lasting impact, even once the number of cases subside.
‘It’s not just the pandemic, it’s the aftermath as well,’ he told the Townsville Bulletin in March. ‘Mental health is going to be a big thing.’
Beau and Stacey have now started distributing boxes of groceries to those in need.
Beau took part in the 100-metre, 200-metre and 400-metre events at the 2018 Invictus Games in Sydney.
Beau with Prince Harry at the 2018 Invictus Games in Sydney.