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Cyclone Debbie good news: Kid farmers pick pumpkins and donate their profits to the SES

Sophie Meixner and Melissa Maddison, Wednesday July 5, 2017 - 10:34 EST
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Seven-year-old Madeline Hughes said picking pumpkins with her family was "fun". - ABC

Two North Queensland siblings have donated the money they earned from farming pumpkins to the SES, to repay the volunteer group for clearing their yard after tropical cyclone Debbie.

Nine-year-old Cynan Hughes and his seven-year-old sister Madeline were away with their family when the Category 4 system hit their Proserpine property in March.

Dreading the clean-up of their 800m-long driveway, the family returned home delighted to discover the SES had already cleared it for them.

The children normally spend their earnings on showbags at the Whitsunday Show, but this year decided to donate the $200 to the SES.



'They do really nice things and they don't get paid'

Cynan said picking the pumpkins was hard work but he had help from his best friend, parents, and sister.

"I thought it would be nice, they did us a favour so we gave them money back because we thought they wouldn't like a whole truckload of pumpkins," he said.

"They do really nice things and they don't get paid.

"I had to pick pumpkins and it was really hard work and I got some help from my friend, my best friend who lives next door, it made it go faster and we could have a big long play when we got home."



Madeline said they would donate more next year and she hoped to expand the farming operation one day.

"I do like raspberries and blueberries," she said.

"It was fun. I've liked selling pumpkins and I like sitting in the ute while mum moves it because I do that when it's not very full."



'It was a massive, massive help'

Their mum Michelle Hughes said she was "so proud" that the kids decided to donate their profits.

"We were away and we came home thinking we're going to have to cut our way through our driveway to get to our house but we were lucky enough that they had been and cleared our driveway for us so we could come straight in," she said.

"It was a massive, massive help.

"[The kids] just wanted to give back to the community and give back to the SES for helping us when we needed it most, so they wanted to give back to them so they can help others."

In total, the family picked 20 tonnes of pumpkins, but lost over a third of their crop during the cyclone.

The family works together to harvest the pumpkins and sells them to local fruit shops, donating the excess to local charities like Meals On Wheels.

"[Their dad] Garth does most of the pointing out of which pumpkins are ready to be picked, and then the kids bring them over and I load them into the ute for them," Mrs Hughes said.

"There was a lot of whinging, although a pumpkin itself is not heavy, the repetitive lifting of pumpkins takes its toll on [the kids]."



'They're a credit to their family'

Local controller at the Whitsunday SES Mark Connors said the volunteers had a "lump in [their] throat" after hearing about Cynan and Madeline's gesture.

"We just think anything where the community actually recognises what we've done and particularly a couple of young people like that, we just think it's fantastic, it just gives everyone a smile, I really enjoyed it," he said.

He said the local SES completed in excess of 3,000 jobs in the two-and-a-half-week period following the cyclone.

"We've had local farmers just walk though the door and drop cartons of beer at our shed, it's a very nice thank you," he said.

"We've had cheques in the mail, just random donations, and of course what the young people from the Hughes family have done, that's just a great example of that.

"It was nice to actually meet them, it really went down well with the guys, they really enjoyed that and put a lump in our throat basically.

"They're a credit to their family."


- ABC

© ABC 2017

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