Gavin Rippon

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Gavin Rippon, owner of Camvet, was the Judges’ Choice winner of the 2016 Stars of Hastings Dance for Cancer event. Gavin says although learning to dance and perform in front of an audience was definitely outside his comfort zone, it was a life changing experience. He thoroughly recommends anyone become involved with this event, which raises money for the Cancer Council …

Hi Gavin. What’s your background as a veterinarian?

I had always wanted to be a vet since as young as I can remember and did all my school work experience at veterinary clinics, zoos and animal shelters. We had pets when I was growing up, and I always wanted to do something that involved animals as a career – and thankfully I managed to get into uni to do my veterinary degree.

I moved from Rockhampton to Brisbane to study and did my degree at the University of Queensland. I graduated from there in 1991.

How did you acquire the Camden Haven Veterinary Clinic, and why did you change its name to “Camvet”?

My first job out of uni was with Frank Arnell, who owned the Port Macquarie Vet Hospital and ran the clinic in Laurieton as a branch practice. I bought the business from him in 1994 and have been in Laurieton ever since.

In that time the practice has grown to be open six days a week and has two full-time vets employed and another seven support staff.

We changed the name of the clinic to Camvet in 2013, because we had recently extended the clinic and upgraded our services available to our clients, and we wanted a name that fit with the modernisation of the clinic.

What areas does your clinic specialise in?

We are a clinic that predominantly deals with small domestic pets, but also still have a small proportion of clients with horses and other farm animals. We offer a broad range of services to our clients, including ultrasonography, radiology, in-house pathology and a range of surgical procedures. In the past couple of years reptiles have become a much more common family pet, and I am enjoying the challenge of dealing with a range of exotic animals …

Why did you decide to take part in the 2016 Stars of Hastings Dance for Cancer event?

I don’t know that I decided to get involved in Hastings Dance for Cancer – more like Louise contacted me to tell me that I had been put forward as someone from the Camden Haven area who may be interested. By the end of the phone call, I had become one of the “dancers”, and I don’t think I actually said “Yes” at any stage – but am so glad I became a part of the 2016 production.

It was definitely way out of my comfort zone, because my only other dance experience involved too much alcohol and a nightclub floor. Unfortunately like most people these days, my life was touched by the dark side of cancer earlier this year when I lost a very close friend from brain cancer and I knew that if she was still here, she would have been one of the first to buy a front row ticket to see me dance.

What dance routine did you perform, and who was your teacher?

I was paired up with Jo Rowan, who owns and teaches at Movement Studio in Laurieton. I can’t thank her enough for all her time and patience. Thankfully, having a local instructor it was easy to organise extra rehearsals when we needed them, and the other big plus in being paired with Jo was the fact that she was surprisingly shorter than me, so I felt tall – which is definitely a new experience for me.

I had heard from other people about Jo’s energy, and I’ll admit I was a little bit apprehensive about whether my energy levels were going to be able reach her heights. When she told me that we were going to be doing a modern Hip Hop routine to a Michael Jackson medley, I thought she was joking, but surprisingly we managed to pull it off on the night.

What fundraisers did you hold for this event, and how much did you raise?

I managed to raise around $6,000, and the fact that I was able to be a small part in raising $70,000 was great. I’d like to congratulate Michelle Percival on her massive fundraising contribution, which helped us raise the highest amount of money since Hastings Dance for Cancer began. My biggest contributor was Black Duck Brewery, and I’d like to thank Alistair Owen very much for his support and the opportunity to have a fundraising event at the brewery.

I would also like to offer a big thank you to all my family and friends who contributed to my fundraising and the large number of supporters who came to watch and cheer for me on the night, especially my partner, Brendon, who helped me practice in the lounge room, reattach the heels of my shoes and supported me every step of the way. I couldn’t have done it without him.

What impact did Dance for Cancer have on you?

This has been a life changing experience for me. I never thought I would have the confidence to get up in front of 400 people on stage and perform, let alone dance. The change in me from day one to the night of the performance was amazing. I went from having no musicality to actually listening and understanding the music. I went from having no flexibility to having limited flexibility. I was able to stop thinking and just dance and enjoy the routine, rather than be scared by it.

I finished this whole experience 9 kg lighter and a much more confident person and I can’t thank Jo, Imogen and Ellen enough for putting in all the hours to help turn me into a dancer!

What would your reaction be if you were asked to take part in a Dance for Cancer event again?

If I was invited to be involved in the event again, I would be thinking that there are a lot of other people who would love an opportunity to get up there and dance. I wouldn’t want to be greedy and prevent someone else from having a chance to take home their own mirror ball trophy.

I have quite a few names in my head of people who may not be aware that they have an inner dancer within them, but one of them could possibly be receiving one of those phone calls from Louise next year! When they do, I suggest they just say, “Yes”, and have one of the most exciting and challenging experiences of their lives.

Remember, it’s all about raising heaps of money for the Cancer Council and just enjoying yourself. Sometimes it’s great to do something that pushes you outside of your comfort zone, and it’s such a great feeling when it succeeds.

Thanks Gavin.

Interview by Jo Robinson.

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