By MATTHEW MCKEW
AN overwhelming community response’s helping to lift the spirits of a popular Finnish bartender left blind in one eye by a stroke.
Essi Lehtonen’s been part of the Frankton Arm Tavern team for three years, having moved to Queenstown two years prior.
Ever popular and keen to help as many people as possible, Lehtonen’s now on the receiving end of assistance.
Six weeks ago, the 25-year-old was hit with a life-altering stroke caused by a previously-undetected heart condition that requires surgery.
Unable to work or claim ACC, and too sick to fly home – if that were even possible – her colleagues are rallying around her to raise vital funds.
Frankton Arm Tavern co-owner Eilis Fenton says the support from patrons has been “fantastic”, especially during last Saturday’s fundraiser.
The Givaelittle page has surpassed $10,000 and, Fenton says, to date in the pub, through the raffle, the silent auction and donations, “we’ve got another $12,000”.
“I couldn’t believe it, every prize somebody won they put back in to be raffled again.”
Fenton says about 400 people piled through doors on Saturday, including Wakatipu Rugby Club and Lakes United FC players.
“Just after Covid, it’s so nice to see when people don’t have a lot themselves at the moment, anything they could give, they did.”
The date for Lehtonen’s operation’s still unknown, but Fenton says the community outpouring’s “given her such a lift”.
“She is the epitome of a lovely person, inside and out, there isn’t a bad bone in her.”
The money will go towards medical costs, cost of living and flying Lehtonen’s mum out when the borders reopen.
To donate, visit https://bit.ly/3eM4cOW