When Ray Wiles and his wife, Margaret, moved to Leura from Sydney in 2002, one of the factors that helped make up their minds – “what you think about as you get older” – was the presence of a hospital at Katoomba.
So he felt it only appropriate to volunteer to help stage the annual Leura Gardens Festival, which donates funds raised to the hospital.
“That was probably one of the main reasons I did it. I just sensed that the festival was such a wonderful community event support by so many people. And it’s raised nearly $3 million for the hospital over the last 50-odd years.”
Mr Wiles has been awarded a medal of the Order of Australia for his work with the festival for the last 10 years, as well as other voluntary work with Rotary clubs, as a fundraiser for Greystanes Disability Services and as co-chair of the Upper Mountains Red Shield Appeal.
He also produced and staged the opening and closing ceremonies at the 2002 Special Olympic Games which feature athletes with an intellectual disability.
The award took him by surprise, he said.
“I was a bit overcome because I personally don’t go out for rewards, but it’s nice to be recognised.”
He praised the more than 400 people who also volunteer to help get the festival happening each October: “They all contribute towards this recognition,” he said.
Mr Wiles also praised the “full-time support” of Margaret. “She’s obviously of great assistance to me in what I do.”