Claude “The Mowerman” Harvey arrived in Rainbow early on Friday afternoon and quickly got to work raising money for a cause close to his heart.
Doin’ it for the kids
Claude pushes his lawnmower across the country raising money for Bravehearts along the way. Bravehearts provide counselling for children who have been sexually abused.
After a suggestion by a member of the public in Rainbow, a quick phone call was made to the school to see if they were interested in having the students hear from Claude. An excited response from Principal Allan Coffey saw the students gather to hear from Claude about why he does what he does.
At the school Claude spoke on the work Bravehearts do and why he supports them. He also spoke to the students on being better people both in and out of school hours as well as talking about his walks throughout Australia.
Several students asked Claude questions, some relating to his fundraising while others were slightly random but amusing.
Claude was happy to chat to the students for around 20 minutes before the students headed back to class, with minds opened to change. Before leaving, Claude challenged the students to show their appreciation for their teachers by giving them a flower or chocolate the next time the students came to school.
While in Rainbow, Claude also met Hindmarsh Shire Mayor Ron Ismay who was happy to hear about Claude’s journey and give a donation.
Bravehearts’ cause is close to Claude’s heart, after two girls in his family were sexually abused at the ages of three and four.
“A 16 year old boy climbed over the fence while the girls were playing in their own backyard. The only punishment the boy got was a slap on the back and told to be a good boy, which I found absolutely disgraceful,” Claude said.
“I’ve been pushing my mower around the country for 11 years for five months a year. I just love kids and raising money to help them,” he said.
Over the 11 years, Claude has raised around $1,045,000. During this trip, Claude has raised around $15,000 so far after starting his journey in Geelong on April 23, before travelling to Torquay, Anglesea, Lorne, Apollo Bay, Port Campbell, Warrnambool, Port Fairy, Portland, Hamilton, Ballarat, Ararat, Stawell, Horsham and Warracknabeal.
Claude continued his journey in Rainbow, before heading back to Warracknabeal before the trek to Ouyen, Red Cliffs and Mildura, which he hopes to conclude on May 30.
While travelling along the Great Ocean Road, Claude broke history by being the first person to push a lawn mower to the lighthouse.
When asked whether it was difficult to achieve, Claude said, “Not really. It was all flat until the last little bit when it went uphill slightly.”
“I enjoyed seeing the 12 Apostles and the scenery right along the road,” Claude said.
“I originally had to put off the trip in April due to safety concerns about walking along the Great Ocean Road,” he said.
“But Bravehearts and I came up with a solution which saw me make the trip safely, which is wonderful.”
On previous trips, Claude has travelled throughout Tasmania, Western Australia and Queensland.
“In Tasmania I had to buy a jumper, socks and long pants because it was so cold even though it was January,” Claude said.
“I walked from Fremantle to Kalgoorlie in Western Australia and have also walked twice from the Gold Coast to Sydney, once via Coffs Harbour and the other via Armidale and Newcastle,” he said.
When asked how long Claude plans on pushing his lawn mower, he replied quite simply, “I can’t stop. I want to get to $2 million if I can.”
72 year old Claude said that despite his age, he feels like he’s only 26 in mind and will continue as long as he can.
Living in Varsity Lakes on the Gold Coast, the weather in Victoria has kept Claude guessing.
“I walked from Geelong to Ballarat before I had to buy long pants after walking the rest of the way in shorts,” Claude said.
Over the years, Claude has been told by Bravehearts that he has walked 24,000 kilometres.
“But I don’t believe that, I think I’m at about 16,000 kilometres,” he said.
“I started by doing a fundraising 120 kilometre walk on the Gold Coast during Children’s Week 11 years ago.”
“I started by raising 35 cents, and have now raised over $1 million, which is just incredible.”
92 pairs of sandals and thongs later, Claude has never changed the style of shoes he wears for his walks. When asked where the worn-out shoes are now, he proudly stated, “They’re on the doorstep at home on the Gold Coast. I won’t throw them out, they’re a good reminder of what I have achieved for Bravehearts.”
Claude has gone through three lawn mowers along the way, but is happy with the one he has now.
“I had a Honda in 2008 but found it too big to control and I kept getting in everyone’s way so I moved to a smaller one. I wouldn’t even like to think how many wheels on it I’ve had to replace on this one,” Claude joked.
“The Honda ended up getting auctioned off with all money going to Bravehearts. The mower I have now was donated by a Gold Coast business which I really appreciate,” he said.
When asked why Claude named his mower “Moyra” he said, “One of the first supporters I had was a presenter on a local radio station whose name was Moyra, so the mower is named after her.”
Claude has been lucky with no injuries, but has had a few run-ins along the way after being chased by bulls and dogs.
“There was also a woman who didn’t like what I was doing and was quite vocal of her disapproval,” Claude said.
“I’ve been punched in the head and had a gun held to my head with the man stating he didn’t like what I was doing and was told if I came back he would blow my head off,” he said.
Did he go back?
“Yes I did. The Mayor came out and I had a huge amount of support from the community which was great,” he said.
Claude has been married for 45 years last Sunday. He missed his anniversary by being on this journey. He has two adult children, a boy and girl, and six grandchildren ranging in ages from nine to 24 made up of three girls and three boys.
When asked whether his wife or family came with him on the trip he said, “My wife can’t stand the things I have to put up with. There can be a lot of insults by people who just don’t like what I’m doing.”
When asked about what he’s most proud of achieving throughout the 11 years, he said the following.
“I’m quite pleased to be the first person to cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge pushing a lawn mower, which was in 2016. I was greeted by the Prime Minister at the other end. There was a Channel Seven helicopter overhead and a cameraman behind as I made the cross,” Claude said.
“I then walked into the Sunrise studio in Martin Place and was greeted by the crew. It was a wonderful experience,” he said.
“I’d tried to cross the bridge twice before, but was stopped both times due to people thinking I was carrying a bomb, but after explaining what I was doing, it all worked out.”
Claude also praised Bravehearts education program “Ditto” which goes to schools and teaches the students about personal safety.
When he first arrived in Victoria, people were unsure of who Claude was but as word has spread, he has been greeted in towns with open arms.
“Whenever I’ve needed something, whether it’s been a pair of pants or just a cup of coffee, people have paid for my items, which is just incredible,” Claude said.
“Even when I first arrived and no one knew who I was, they’ve been so generous. I can’t really believe it. It just blows me away,” he said.
When it all comes down to it, Claude had the final say on just why he does what he does.
“I want to encourage kids to do good to other kids,” he concluded.
If anyone missed Claude on his trek through Victoria, they can donate at http://bit.do/claude or follow his journey on facebook at Claude “The Mowerman” Harvey.
9995: Claude “The Mowerman” Harvey pushed his lawnmower around Rainbow on Friday to raise money for Bravehearts.
9986: Claude visited Rainbow P-12 College and spoke to the students about Bravehearts and why he walks with a lawn mower. Principal Allan Coffey was excited to have Claude visit the school to talk to the students.
9980: While in Rainbow Claude Harvey met with Hindmarsh Shire Mayor Ron Ismay.