The Port Stephens community is rallying around the five people who suffered burns to varying degree when a diesel heater exploded during a 50th birthday party in Medowie on July 20.
Two of the most severely injured in the explosion were father-of-four and Defence member Paul Barlow, aged 50, and 42-year-old Melina Heyward, who had recently moved to Corlette from the Sydney Hills district.
Both Paul and Melina remain in the burns unit of the Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney and the pair had their first reunion last week since that tragic day.
Ms Heyward, who suffered 47 per cent burns to her body as a result of the explosion, had been working as a property manager with O'Meara Property in Nelson Bay for the past two years.
Principal Daniel O'Meara said that ongoing support for Ms Heyward was a priority. "The Port Stephens community is a very generous one and she will require a lot of support as she recovers from her injuries," he said.
Cathy King is a close friend to the mother-of-three and said that Ms Heyward was a valued member of the Winston Hills community before her move to Corlette.
"She has sustained serious and life threatening injuries and she will need ongoing care for her burns and therapy for her continued treatment."
In an effort to ease the financial burden on Ms Heyward and her family, Ms King has organised a fundraising event to be held at the Bella Vista Hotel, in Lexington Drive, on Saturday, September 28, between 11am and 4pm.
The fundraiser will be a ticketed event at $70 per head [through trybooking], which includes lunch and a chance for those who go along to win raffle or lucky door prizes and to bid for various auction items.
"I have organised coaches to bring down some of the emergency services teams from Port Stephens to thank them all for their outstanding efforts of saving my friend's lives," she said.
"They include Medowie and Raymond Terrace fire stations, Port Stephens and Raymond Terrace Police, plus and aerial and ground ambulance service crews.
"We understand that people from Port Stephens may not be able to travel to Sydney to attend the event, so we would welcome any donations towards the silent auction or raffle.
"Melina is still in the critical ICU unit at Royal North Shore Hospital, and all money raised will go towards her ongoing treatment, weekly skin grafts, blood transfusions and her long-term care and recovery.
"She will be having regular medical treatments and surgeries in the months, possibly years, ahead and we are hoping that when she is healed she will be able to pick up her life again."
Sponsors for the day include O'Meara Property in Nelson Bay, Flight Centre Salamander Bay, Advanced Pest Control Nelson Bay, Dick Smith, Ray White Northmead, Winston Hills Shopping Mall, OSAN Ability Assist, Bella Vista Hotel, Weston's Property & Co, Julie Bellinger, The Craven Family, Kerrie Dominguez, La Bionda Cafe/Hairdresser's (Mick and Dominic Gerace), St George Bank Winston Hills, Big W Winston Hills, Friends of Rookwood Cemetery, Parramatta Leagues Club, Paul and Liz Starc, Mrs King's Kitchen and Paxton Wines.
Mr Barlow and Ms Heyward, who sustained the most severe burns, were stabilised by NSW Ambulance paramedics and two helicopter medical crews at the Medowie property on the night of the blast.
They were airlifted in separate helicopters to Royal North Shore Hospital in a critical condition. The remaining three people were taken to hospital by ambulance.