ANIMAL ATTRACTION: Grafton Men's Shed's Bruce Carle, Fay Johnson, Johnno Johnson, community nurse Jennifer Smith, practice owner and dentist Willem Espag and dentist Valerica Matveeva with Debra the Zebra, which has been stabled at Family Dental Grafton.
ANIMAL ATTRACTION: Grafton Men's Shed's Bruce Carle, Fay Johnson, Johnno Johnson, community nurse Jennifer Smith, practice owner and dentist Willem Espag and dentist Valerica Matveeva with Debra the Zebra, which has been stabled at Family Dental Grafton. Tim Howard

Debra the Zebra's got fundraising talent

IN JUST a few months, a wooden rocking zebra has raised $17,000 for charity and has her connections contemplating a possible royal presence.

Grafton Men's Shed creation Debra the Zebra, made with the aim of raising funds for palliative care in her home town, has exceeded all expectations.

There was a surprise ending to the initial auction to sell Debra, Men's Shed member Greg Ryan said.

He said the first bid, from local dentist Willem Espag, of $2500 had delighted her builders.

"Then Maclean businessman Johnno Johnson went straight over the top of him with a bid for $5000," Mr Ryan said.

Despite Mr Espag losing the bid Mr Ryan was "blown away when Willem said he would give us his initial ($2500) bid on top of what Johnno paid for her.

"Once we took out $500 to cover our costs we were able to donate $7000 to palliative care."

Now Mr Johnson said he set Debra a target of raising $100,000, which he wants to donate to cancer research after the battle he and wife Fay have waged against the disease. "I've had it once and they said it could have killed me and Fay has had it twice, the last time they put her in hospital to die," he said.

Mr Johnson said his nephew Stephen, a solicitor at the Queensland Law Group, has kicked in $10,000 to get bidding started. "I want to write to a lot of the big businesses in Australia and send them a nice glossy photo and a letter telling them what we're trying to do," he said.

"I've put a price of $100,000 on it but if someone's won Lotto and wants to pay $1million, I'll take that too."

Dr Espag's aspirations for Debra extend to royalty.

"We know Prince George already has a rocking zebra but surely the next royal baby will need a birthday present," he said.

"We should get in contact with the Governor-General and offer Debra as Australia's present for the next royal birth in April if we don't have something in mind already."



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