An unusual visitor poked his head into Newling Gardens Retirement Village as part of an epic journey to raise money for mental health and suicide prevention.
Hephner the alpaca strutted through the village on Friday, last week, much to the delight of residents who contributed more than $300 to the loveable long-necked mammal.
"Hephner even came into the office - his whole demeanour was just beautiful," Newling Gardens Village Manager, Sue Nelson, said.
"The residents loved Hephner and donated more than $300 in the hour that he was at the village, and some are still making donations online.
"Many of our residents have been touched by mental health struggles or suicide and were more than willing to get behind such a good cause," she said.
Hephner and his owner Robert Fletcher stopped in Armidale while on a trip to raise money and raise awareness for Beyond Blue.
They are in the midst of a three week adventure from Goulburn to Queensland's Gold Coast and back again, covering thousands of kilometres and stopping off in towns along the way to raise money and raise awareness about mental health.
Mrs Nelson said the village was incredibly fortunate to have Hephner visit. In fact, she was the one who tracked down the alpaca after hearing he was in town.
"I got a call from my daughter after she happened to meet Hephner in the street," she said.
"She explained why he was in town, so I jumped in my car and started driving around the streets of Armidale to find Hephner and see if he could visit the village."
Mr Fletcher lost a dear friend through suicide, which inspired him to make the trip north and raise money for Beyond Blue.
"I knew our residents, like any good cause, would be willing to give," Mrs Nelson said.
The residents at Newling Gardens are a generous bunch. Earlier this year they launched a community-wide flood appeal for Lismore residents, which gathered enough emergency supplies to fill an entire truck and two utes.
The residents are also fundraisers for the Salvation Army's annual Red Shield Appeal and donate to many other good causes including the oncology wing at Armidale Hospital and the Cancer Council.
For more information about Robert and Hephner's Beyond Blue fundraiser visit https://beyondblueinmem.raisely.com/chicken.
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