A brighter future blooms out of Suncorp’s generosity


How Suncorp’s people have helped brighten the lives of young people recovering from horrific injuries and the chance encounter that inspired it all.


A brighter future blooms out of Suncorp’s generosity

A tranquil and inviting rehabilitation garden sits within the grounds at Toowoomba’s Baillie Henderson Hospital in Queensland. Patients and their families benefit from it every day, but few would know the remarkable story behind its inception, involving a quick-thinking Suncorp Bank employee, a determined young man with a cracking sense of humour and the generosity of Suncorp’s people. 

On a Saturday afternoon in December 2017, 21-year-old Zach Nightingale was enjoying the thrill of his motorbike license test. As he was coming around a corner on Drayton Wellcamp Road, not far from home, Zach’s bike collided with a four-wheel-drive coming from the other direction. 

“My leg went 25 metres one way, and I went up and over the car the other way,” said Zach. "I can’t remember much but I do remember being put into the back of the ambulance and calling out to my mate. I was sorry about his bike because I was riding it.” 

April Cavanagh, Suncorp’s Head of Agribusiness, was the passenger in the car just behind the one involved in the accident. Ms Cavanagh was also nearing home after travelling more than 1,000 kilometres, visiting customers across South West Queensland.  

When I first saw those moments of impact I just remember thinking "no, no, no". That didn’t just happen.

April Cavanagh, Suncorp Head of Agribusiness

April ran towards Zach while on the phone to emergency services.  

“The first time I met Zach he was flat on his back on the road. I didn’t expect Zach to make it to be honest. For the first 24/48 hours, I was waiting for the phone call saying he had passed away. I thought he would die on the road in front of me that day.” 

Zach woke up almost a week later in ICU in Brisbane.  

Images supplied by Zach Nightingale

“I woke up to a bunch of doctors shoving lights in my face,” remembers Zach. “I had my hand resting on my thighs, but I couldn’t feel my right leg, so I pulled the sheet back and it was gone. That was how I realised the magnitude of what had happened.”  

It was the start of a very long and difficult journey for Zach.  

When you’re 21 you’re supposed to get the keys to life, so I had a pretty bad couple of days after that one.

Zach Nightingale, motorcycle accident survivor

Zach credits his wonderful team of physios with getting him up and standing with assistance after just two days.

April Cavanagh came to visit Zach during his Brisbane hospital stay. “As part of my healing process it was important to go and see Zach when he was feeling up to it,” said April. 

“He had his helmet on that day I met him on the road. I didn’t know he was a 21-year-old kid with his whole life in front of him.” 

Zach and April stayed in regular contact once he was transferred home to Toowoomba to continue his intensive rehabilitation.  

Zach found the clinical environment of rehab challenging. He craved the outdoors. 

“I just wanted somewhere you could go outside and sit down and feel closer to nature,” said Zach. “I think personally, you heal a lot better that way.” 

Zach spoke to April about his vision for an outdoor space and she put him in touch with the Toowoomba Hospital Foundation, which is one of Suncorp’s Brighter Futures charity partners.  

“I had raised money through Brighter Futures before, $75,000 for ladies with breast cancer so I knew that Suncorp, through Brighter Futures, had the capacity to help,” said April. 

“I knew we had the power to raise money together with the Foundation and I knew they could find projects to help people like Zach and that we could make a difference in a tangible way.” 

Generous employee donations and Suncorp matching raised $161,000 and Zach’s rehabilitation garden came to life in March this year.

The Toowoomba North Rehabilitation Garden provides patients with a taste of home, with an adjustable clothesline, raised garden beds, gates and even a letterbox. It’s designed to help patients build the skills they need for life after the centre. Farmers have even been known to bring their pets.

"The garden gives people the opportunity to learn how to have a barbeque, open the letterbox and hang their washing out,” said Alison Kennedy, CEO of the Toowoomba Hospital Foundation.

“It’s real life. It’s about making sure these patients go home, having been able to access all of that in their rehabilitation,” Alison said.

It’s a pretty good feeling to know that I'm involved in this creation. It was such a simple idea that so many people can now benefit from.

It’s given me a different outlook and I've realised what I can do to help others.

Zach Nightingale, motorcycle accident survivor

There are so many beautiful things within that garden, and Suncorp, through their fundraising, really helped us get that off the ground,” said Alison Kennedy. 

“Suncorp has done a lot for our community, they have helped us with quite big projects, the rehabilitation garden being one of those.” 

Suncorp Group Executive, People, Culture & Advocacy Fiona Thompson says Suncorp has a responsibility to do good. 

“I am so proud of the generous contribution our people have made through the Brighter Futures program," Ms Thompson said. “We are truly a purpose-led organisation and this rehabilitation garden is a testament to that."

“Brighter Futures is the best part of working for Suncorp,” said April Cavanagh. “It feels so good to give.” 

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