Pat brings a humorous approach to help with serious issues
YOU may not recognise Pat Connolly without a famous purple boa and a set of glasses.
His portrayal of Dame Edna started in a Jacaranda Thursday performance nearly 20 years ago.
“They really react to it, they keep asking for it,” he said.
“It just clicked, and it still does and while ever it works I’ll do it.
“Jacaranda is supposed to be about fun, and it’s just fun.
“It’s a great honour. I’m a proud Graftonian and this is wonderful.”
Mr Connolly was awarded the joint Citizen of the Year award for the Clarence Valley, and while he is known for his lighter side, he has been working as a volunteer to help with issues of a serious nature.
For the past 50 years, Pat has been helping the community of the Grafton/Clarence/Coffs area with his charity work, including as a Red Rock and Woolgoolga Surf Life Saving and Grafton Hockey Association volunteer, a Youth Off the Streets mentor and Youth Suicide Prevention program mentor.
Mr Connolly spoke to the audience about his work with Rebound, which runs programs with local youth at the basketball stadium.
“They get a feed, they get to play games as part of a team, as long as they do a workshop,” he said.
“And some of those workshops are really popular. We’ve had people interested in ones like opening bank accounts and others.
“It’s learning by stealth almost. The kids come here for a good time and learn and get skills for life.”
Mr Connolly speaks of the program with an enthusiasm that belies his near-80 years.
“I’ll keep going. While ever I’m breathing, it’s something I’ll always do,” he said.
“It’s definitely an outlet, but I’ve always been concerned with helping young people.”
He’s even got an idea for next year’s Jacaranda.
“I always thought it’d be great if Dame Edna could take some of the bus trips around,” he laughed.
“I’m not sure I could last five days though.”
Mr Connolly was awarded an OAM for his work in 2019.