Arriving at Monto Hospital.
Arriving at Monto Hospital. Jack Lawrie

Ride for Keith raises $34k

FOR six years, Keith Nicholls travelled around Australia as a grey nomad, but fell in love with the Monto region.

He spent much of his time living at Wuruma Dam until August 2015 when he was diagnosed with aggressive lung cancer.

After being sent to Brisbane for treatment, Keith requested to be transferred back to Monto Hospital's palliative care ward.

He spent his final days here under the care and supervision of the hospital staff and his family.

The palliative care ward allowed Keith to live out the remaining weeks of his life as if he were in a normal home.

Aside from the hospital bed and medical staff call button, it had a second bed for family members, a lounge and TV, a miniature fridge and a balcony with a view of the Monto countryside.

As 24-hour care from family was required, Keith's family took shifts driving up from Brisbane and the Gold Coast to be with him.

Keith's son Warren believed living in the palliative care ward did more for Keith's physical and mental health than any treatment.

"It allowed him to function normally; we could have taken him out of here and sent him to Redcliffe Hospital, but he wouldn't do it,” Warren said.

"He called the other hospitals prisons.”

Just a few short days before his passing on April 29, 2016, Keith told his sons he wanted to do something to raise money for the hospital, as a way of giving back to the community that had looked after him.

And so, Ride for Keith was born.

Warren organised the ride, having spent the past few months gathering up as many friends and family as he could to raise money for the hospital.

"It's actually enabled me to work through my grief by doing something productive,” Warren said.

On Sunday, 14 cyclists arrived at Monto Hospital to present a cheque for $34,700 on behalf of the late Keith Nicholls.

This was the culmination of five months of planning and four days of hard cycling - 670 km from Southport to Monto to raise money for the hospital that had given such wonderful care to Keith in the last weeks of his life.

With the money, the hospital was able to purchase a $20,000 hydraulic VersaCare bed for high-needs patients.

The remaining $14,700 (minus some expenses for the ride itself) will go toward the next big purchase the Hospital Auxiliary has need for, when the time comes.

"The hospital does such a great job here, the staff, the grounds, so dad had a goal to do a fundraiser for the hospital auxiliary people,” Warren said.

"We started the fundraiser four months ago, and each rider originally had a goal to raise $1000, and I had a goal to raise $6000.”

"It's quite amazing the groundswell of supporters we've gotten over the last few months.”

Mayor Rachel Chambers welcomed the riders at Monto Hospital.

"To live with dignity is a personal choice, but to die with dignity takes the care of others, and Warren's passion has shown through every interview,” Cr Chambers said.

"What you have all accomplished today should be commended; congratulations from all of us!”

Commendations were given out to each rider, as well as the six support crew members that accompanied them on the journey.

They spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying a well-earned rest and a sausage-sizzle on the hospital veranda.

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