By CAITLIN CROWLEY
FOUR Toowoomba mates are combining their skills in business, project management and events to deliver the black tie sequel to last year’s hugely successful Gather & Graze charity lunch.
Aaron Bourne, Michael Valdal, Lachlan Hogan and new committee member Alexander Johnson are the team behind Gather & Graze 2022, which will be an evening celebration at Toowoomba’s Goods Shed this November, raising funds for local cancer wellness centre, Hope Horizons.
Aaron Bourne said having four men in their early 30s working together to make a difference felt very special.
“It’s a lovely way to use our friendship,” Bourne said.
“We know each other’s strengths. We’re friends first and we’re like each person’s hype person.”
Michael Valdal said he felt the same way.
“I look forward to working with these three men each year and on top of that we are raising money for a worthy cause,” Valdal said.
“We all have our important roles as the committee members and each one of us takes our roles very seriously to create an event like no other.”
The Gather & Graze concept was developed in late 2019 when the group wanted to do something to support the region’s farmers, struggling through drought.
While the pandemic saw their initial plans postponed, the team hosted two, sold-out long lunches at Ravensbourne in February last year, raising just over $66,000 for Chinchilla-based charity, Drought Angels.
“Last year’s event was a true test to see if we can pull off an event like this and we can,” Michael Valdal said.
“This year’s event is very different to last year’s long lunch. We are going for a black tie theme this year and Aaron and I have teamed up with some amazing vendors to create an unforgettable event.”
Aaron Bourne, who owns boutique homewares store Harold’s Finishing Touches, said guests could expect luxurious styling.
“We want to just spoil everyone, that’s kind of the feeling,” he said.
The group first experimented with hosting a large function when one of their close friends was fighting breast cancer.
“That really kicked off into thinking, we could do this every year for any cause,” Aaron Bourne said.
After supporting Drought Angels in 2021, the team put a call out on social media for a local cause they could get behind this time around.
“We were looking for something local – and Hope Horizons, we would have had 60 – 70 people message straight away about the good that Hope Horizons does,” Bourne said.
“It’s so local, it’s all Toowoomba people and there’s no other funding other than fundraising and generous supporters, so I think it’s a really lovely pairing.”
Hope Horizons offers allied health services free of charge to improve the quality of life of people with a cancer diagnosis, addressing physical, psychological and social needs in a holistic environment, outside a clinical setting.
Aside from fundraising, the group is also passionate about creating unique events that raise the standard of what’s on offer in Toowoomba, engaging local businesses Poppies for Willow, Impressions on Scott and The Royal Hotel as key suppliers.
“Each year we will strive to create an event that is different from the previous year,” Michael Valdal said.
“We are trying to create that urgency to get a ticket each year and make attendees fear they are missing out on one of Toowoomba’s best events.”
For more information and to book tickets, head to the Gather & Graze Facebook page.