History of the Manning River Lions Club

While a relatively small club most of its life, Manning River Lions Inc. has made a substantial mark within the community.

The very first service scheme (1978) was to assist Valley Industries (Sheltered Workshop) to clean up the grounds and fence lines following their occupancy of the factory site at that time.

Some major events organised in the 80’s were the Beerfests and Cabbage Patch Days at the Taree Race Course that entertained thousands and raised many dollars for various projects. During those years the club also catered for many family and school reunions, anniversaries and even a wedding at the same location.

Taree, Chatham and St Clares High are each recipients of a yearly scholarship in memory of our former charter member and PDG Stuart Willis. Another memorial scholarship is made each year to Taree Eisteddfod for a young performer in honour of late Charter member Kevin Dodd.

Much of the work performed by the Club over the years is unknown to the public. Assistance to fire victims, the installation of home aids ramps and yard maintenance for the elderly. The provision of a rather expensive special bed to handicapped child are just some examples of our work.

With the establishment of the Presidents Foundation we were able to hold several camps at Pappinbarra for especially chosen children of primary school age who had little opportunity to spend such time away. We also took children with sight handicaps on outings to Peppermint Park in Port Macquarie.

We provided a computer enhanced reader to a student from Taree High to assist in her HC studies and another for a sight impaired person in 2011.

Mothers Day cakes (using Lions Cakes decorated by the Taree Cake Decorators Club) each year are presented to Legacy widows, Nursing Home and Hostel residents and Meals on Wheels clients.

Our Christmas trailer raffle proved a popular event with Club and the public over several years. The shopfront Christmas Santas have been on the Taree scene for a number of years providing valuable income to the club.

More recently our involvement with Group 3 Football and the Taree Bulls has seen the Club manning the gates each season. Other activities include Taree Driver reviver, Driver Training Days, Special appeal days etc as well as Youth Exchange some years ago and the Youth of the Year each year involving students from Chatham and St Clares High.

Other recipients of help and funds include Red Cross Calling, Red Shield Appeal, Hearing Dogs, Lions Health Care Foundation, Taree Volunteer Rescue, Diabetes Group, Dialysis Unit and Ronald Macdonald House.

In recent years the Club has been active in fundraising for Victorian Fires Queensland Floods and Asian Tsunami Appeals collecting many thousands of dollars.

Eight years ago, Manning River Lions acquired the operating rights from the Kidney Association of the Hub Markets following government funding for the Dialysis Unit. The Markets was run by the Club at the Racecourse before moving to Taree Show ground in March 2008.

In 2012 the Club accepted the responsibility to organise Camp Memories – an annual camp for families with children who have special needs. Camp Memories was initiated and organised by May & Kevin Sharp for the previous 11 years. The first Camp Memories conducted by the Club was held at the Tinonee property of Rod & Jill Illidge over the weekend of 9-11 November 2012.

In January 2013, The Manning River Lions Club received the ‘Community Organisation of the Year’ Award from the Greater Taree City Council in recognition of its service to the community over 36 years.

Camp Memories was an annual camp-out for children with special needs and their families. Manning River Lions Club sets up the camp and provides tents and mattresses for all campers. Campers only need to bring their own linen and pillows. The annual camp caters for over 30 families with around 120 people participating in two full days of fun and games. We are very grateful to the huge number of volunteers and organisations that contribute each year to making the camp truly memorable.

History of Camp Memories

Camp Memories began as a result of a public meeting in Taree in 2001 to gauge whether there was sufficient interest and support to develop a voluntary public outreach event that would cater for children with disabilities aged birth to 16, and their families, including able-bodied siblings.

The first Camp Memories was organised and conducted in 2001 by Kevin & May Sharp on their property at Pampoolah. Kevin & May Sharp continued Camp Memories for 11 years. The Manning River Lions Club is pleased to be carrying on the wonderful work of the Sharps and their willing band of helpers by co-ordinating Camp Memories from 2012. Our thanks go to Rod & Jill Illidge for making available their Tinonee property for Camp Memories.

Camp Memories has earned itself a wonderful reputation for bringing together children with a range of physical and intellectual disabilities and their families – and willing carers – in a fun-filled atmosphere. Families remain together, with parents staying onsite at all times.

In November 2019, only a few days before the start of that year’s camp, bushfires tore through the Manning Valley and surrounds. Many of the tents, that had been setup in preparation for the camp and other supplies were destroyed.

The difficult decison  to end Camp Memories was  made the Manning River Loins Club in December 2019.

On the 26th of February 2020 the Youth of the Year dinner was used to also say thank you to all that worked so hard over the past 10+ years  to make Camp Memories a success.


The following is a Facebook post from a family who attended Camp Memories in 2015 :

Just wanted to share with you a post I put on my personal page, but was unable to tag you in.

I don’t often document the adversities, the challenges and the associated tears of raising two gorgeous children who happen to also be on the ASD spectrum.

I do however, relish in the love, hugs kisses and joy that they bring to my life. I am constantly forced to see things from a different perspective and there is always the relearning that occurs in a myriad of situations for which ultimately I am grateful for. But does this sometimes come with heartache, with judgement from others, with misunderstanding and intolerance, absolutely!!

This weekend though I am grateful for the experiences that come with raising children with additional needs, as one such experience is our weekend at Camp Memories. Currently we as a family are blessed to be attending Camp Memories and to be reminded that there are so many kind, compassionate and loving people who devote their time to community and to those who struggle with mainstream situations in order to provide them with lasting memories in an environment without judgement, rigid social norms and inflexible attitudes.

This weekend I am reminded of the brighter side of human nature, the side that lifts people up and supports them. The side that gives their time to ensure others happiness and safety. The side that we desperately need to see more of in our communities and in society as a whole.

Thank you to all those who are involved in Camp Memories, to every person who makes it possible. The gift you give children and families is truly priceless. Most importantly though thank you for the personal reminder that we can be the change we want to see in our own communities, we can practice non judgement, compassion and kindness and it does not cost us a thing.

Thank you. We honestly can not thank you enough!!

Kate, Port Macquarie.

Past Presidents

1978 – 1979Ken HOY
1979 – 1980Ken HOY
1980 – 1981Bernie SWEENY
1981 – 1982Ron GOSBELL
1982 – 1983Peter CARSON / Don MACINNIS
1983 – 1984Don MACINNIS
1984 – 1985Brian FORSTER
1985 – 1986George BEGG
1986 – 1987Peter NICHOLSON
1987 – 1988John McLEAN
1988 – 1989Paul FOWLER
1989 – 1990Ken MINTO
1990 – 1991John DOIG
1991-1992Peter BAKER
1992-1993David CLARK
1993-1994Doug FERRIS
1994-1995Les SAXBY
1995-1996David CLARK
1996-1997Peter BAKER
1997-1998Alan FAIRHURST
1998-1999Kevin NICHOLSON
1999-2000Tony MATTHEWS
2000-2001Robert SCOTT
2001-2002Tony MATTHEWS
2002-2003Alan FAIRHURST
2003-2004Don PATERSON
2004-2005David CLARK
2005-2006Peter BAKER
2006-2007Kevin NICHOLSON
2007-2008Greg HARTIG
2008-2009Ross KNEIPP / Dan HENDRIE
2009-2010Dan HENDRIE
2010-2011Hans ROOIMANS
2011-2012Bill COLQUHOUN
2012-2013Greg HARTIG
2013-2014David DRAKE
2014-2015Kevin NICHOLSON
2015-2016Brian BOURKE
2016-2017Kevin NICHOLSON
2017-2018Steve SWAN
2018-2019Steve SWAN
2019-2020George BEGG
2020-2021George BEGG
2021-2022Kevin THORNTON
2022-2023Damien WATTERS
2023-2024George BEGG