Horses and Harleys help raise mental health awareness

Horses and Harleys come together in a never-seen-before event with an important cause – to promote mental health awareness in New Zealand.

Out the Gate Race Day Ellerslie Racecourse on December 16 will have horse racing, live stunt shows, performances and speeches from the likes of Mike King, Tiki Taane, the remnants of Hello Sailor and more, as well as the chance to win a new Harley Davidson.

The family-friendly event is organised by the Wood for the Trees and Firm Events Ltd, in association with Ellerslie Racecourse and Auckland Harley Davidson. Wood for the Trees is a charity started by several mates after losing best friend Tim Hutchens to suicide, with the goal of helping those suffering from mental illness and spreading awareness about mental health.

There will be eight horse races, speeches by Mike King, performances by Tiki Taane, The Loop and remnants of Hello Sailor, live stunt shows by the KW stunt team, a bike and car show with awards for best car and best bike, children’s rides and trade stalls, as well as stalls providing information on ways to stay mentally well. One Harley Davidson will be up for grabs to the public too with 12 random tickets chosen and twelve keys issued – only one of which will start the Harley.

Wood for the Trees co-founder Gareth Hughes said it was an awesome way to get people together for an excellent family day, to raise awareness for mental health, and to also raise funds for the charity, which provides grants to organisations operating at a grassroots level across New Zealand.

“We’ve done some amazing things so far and it’s great to have the ability to launch an event with horse racing and whole lot of fun activities for family and friends to come along to – as well as get that message out to look out for your mates.  And the net result is that the funds go back to what we all stand for: suicide reduction and mental health awareness,” Hughes said.

Wood for the Trees co-founder Gareth Williams agreed: “It’s cool to see everyone supporting a non-profit, non-government organisation like Wood for the Trees, but also great to see everyone involved like the artists, Ellerslie Racecourse and our sponsors coming together to support the cause.”

CEO of the Auckland Racing Club, Paul Wilcox, commented, “It’s great to work with the Wood for the Trees team in support of this important cause.  It will be a raceday like nothing else seen before in New Zealand and we are looking forward welcoming everyone to Ellerslie Racecourse in December.  The day has the support of some great Kiwis, and we, as an organisation, are passionate about giving back to the community, so our involvement with this day was a no brainer.”

The Edge’s Jono Pryor was a close friend of Tim Hutchen’s.

“It was a horrible situation that occurred and a sad time for us all but I am extremely wrapped to see all the hard work the pack and the team have put in to form Wood for the Trees.

“I think this event is a great way to bring people together while providing information regarding mental health and suicide awareness and making the day fun for everyone of all ages we all need to remember just how precious life is.

Off the back of his recent Key to Life/I AM HOPE New Zealand tour, Mike King was stoked to be involved.

“I’m enjoying helping out the bros with the Wood for the Trees charity – we have worked together before, and while they’ve only been established for just over a year, they’ve got a huge amount of positive energy and they are going to make change – so get in behind it.”

Artist Tiki Taane said he was: “feeling blessed to be able to bring my vibes to this important kaupapa.”

“Music has saved my life and has gotten me through my darkest times, so to be able to play for everyone is a huge buzz for me.”

Hello Sailor remnant Harry Lyon said he was pleased to be involved with such a worthy cause. “Seeing Mike [King] involved with Wood for the Trees, combined with all his work as well, it’s great to get alongside him in supporting that.”

Hello Sailor remnant Jimmy Taylor agreed: “It’s actually quite an honour being involved because the work that’s being done is absolutely amazing.” Fellow Hello Sailor remnant Paul Woolright said it’s more than just a gig. “It’s the cause and it’s close to my heart being the uncle of one of the founding members of Wood for the Trees charity. I am extremely proud of Gareth Williams and his team have created and glad to perform for them we support them 100%.”

Wood for the Trees are also extremely proud to have the support of professional rugby player of Matt Duffie, who also help to promote the importance of mental wellness to his fans, Kiwi children and more.

“I’m obviously really pleased to be involved with Wood for the Trees – not only for the cause, but because of the guys running it: they are bloody good buggars that are doing something very special for our community,” Duffie said.

“It’s a cause close to my heart and I’m just happy to help out – it should be fun.”

KW Stunt’s Kingi G Walters said he was extremely proud to be part of the event.

“To see the response that the public give us for performing and hearing that we are helping New Zealanders cope with some difficult times really means something and to be a part of that by performing is truly something for me personally. I support the cause and what the team is doing and this day will be something that’s not been done before with all sorts of entertainment plus a day for all the family to come along to which is also special.”

Tickets can be purchased here or via the Wood for the Trees website –

Media passes are available – contact

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Hannah Norton is a former journalist and editor who now works in public relations. In her spare time, she also likes to write – and this website is a collation of her “work that’s not work” – from blog posts to short stories. She is based in New Zealand.

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