Six weeks after his mum and brother were killed in a tragic car crash, Felix Kilmister can still smile in the knowledge he is surrounded by support from family, friends and even those he had never met.
The 14-year-old was in good spirits on Saturday as a huge crowd turned out at the Bundalong Tavern to take part in auctions and rides and have a drink to help raise money for the family.
Amanda Kilmister and 10-year-old Harrison were killed when their car was hit by an oncoming truck on the Murray Valley Highway at Brimin on November 2.
Nine-month-old Austin was finally released from hospital on Friday to join his two-year-old brother Morgan in staying with family, but their dad Paul remains in hospital.
Felix was the only family member not in the car on the evening of the crash.
He was blown away by the support from people at Saturday’s fundraiser.
“I wasn’t expecting it at all … I’m so thankful,” he said.
“We’re rolling with everything, we’re rolling with the punches.”
His grandmother, and Paul’s mother, Christine Kilmister praised Cathedral College in Wangaratta and Felix’s friends and their families for all the support they have given him.
“He has been a stellar young man, I couldn’t be more proud of him,” she said.
“He hasn’t forgotten his mum and Harrison, and he never will. He’s worried about his dad all the time and he just looks forward to going back to Melbourne each weekend.”
Paul’s father has rarely left the hospital as his son recovers, having broken many bones in the crash.
Christine said Paul was not doing as well as they would like and will remain in the trauma unit for months.
“He’s in a quiet, darkened room and he just has to stay very quiet,” she said.
“He’s not allowed to move, that’s the healing process for him.”
The family believe the truck crash, allegedly caused by a driver on the wrong side of the road and with methamphetamine in his system, “should never have happened”.
“Today is helpful because we know we have the support of so many people, it’s amazing, but when we go home at nighttime, I have to admit it’s very hard,” Christine said.
“The whole extended family, it’s affected us all and we’ll never be the same again. We are a closeknit family and that’s what’s going to get us through.”
Generosity from a town touched by grief
The Bundalong community and a couple of famous football faces turned out on Saturday to support a local family in need.
Auctions, rides and drink stalls were all out at the Bundalong Tavern to raise money for the Kilmister family.
The proceeds will be used to fund modifications on the Kilmister home, because Paul will have special requirements when he is eventually released from hospital.
One Albury company has already offered to donate its services.
Hawthorn great Robert "Dipper” DiPierdomenico was at Saturday’s event to host the auction.
He was joined by Sydney Swans coach John Longmire, who was born in Corowa and returns to Yarrawonga regularly to holiday with family.
“I don’t know the family, but once I heard about it I just felt obliged to come down and help the family and raise some money,” Longmire said.
“I think everybody was touched by it, whether you’re a local or not.
“It’s such a tragic event.”
He also brought a commemorative 1918 Swans premiership jumper, which was donated by Lance Franklin after he wore it this season.
“He signed it, I don’t think he’s washed it so it’s an absolute original – one of a kind,” he said.
Funds raised will be added to the $11,000 already donated so far.
Bundalong Tavern owner Brett Butler said the fundraiser was a very emotional day, but was something the community wanted to do together for the Kilmisters.
“People who didn’t even know Paul and Amanda have got on board and supported it,” he said.
“It makes you reflect on your own life and how lucky you are, and how easily it could get taken away from you.”