Catching the Cabbie-oke Bug

As a Maxi-Taxi driver who’s bravely fitted a karaoke system to his Hyundai iMax, Hendra “Harry” Hendra has had a lot of clowns in his cab, but he’s never seen, or heard, anyone quite like Dr Silly Billy.

Dr Billy, or Paul Wilson as he’s called on his days off, is one of the Clown Doctors, part of the Humour Foundation, at the Westmead Children’s Hospital, and he joined Harry and his taxi to belt out a few tunes recently when Hyundai brought his special brand of “Cabbie-oke” to the kids, and staff, at this amazing facility.

Both the Clown Doctors and the hospital are recipients of the generous charitable efforts of Hyundai Help for Kids - a joint initiative between Hyundai Motor Company Australia and Hyundai dealers - which has raised more than $2,700,000 for organisations that help young Australians.

Wilson gets to go to work every day dressed, to be fair, more like a clown than a doctor, and to spend his hours making kids smile, and he was at his over-performing best when tackling the cabbie-oke challenge, leaving anyone fortunate enough to have witnessed it, appropriately, in stitches.

“I pretty much nailed some Robbie Williams and then I completely slaughtered Billie Jean by Michael Jackson. It’s a good thing I’m the last one in there today because it’s going to take a while to get all my sweat and tears off the floor and the seats,” says Wilson, who reckons he’s got one of the best jobs in the world.

“It’s pretty great, it’s about using your skills for good instead of evil. And when it works it’s so satisfying, when you can change the situation in a kid’s room, where it’s kind of serious, into really fun, you’re winning.

“And if you can get Mum and Dad to relax too, that’s a big part of it.”

Harry Hendra also loves his job, despite what could seem like the ear-endangering screechings of some of the musically talentless but karaoke-keen passengers he ferries around every day.
But Harry reckons he never hears any bad singing, ever. “I love karaoke and everyone can sing okay when they try, no one ever bothers me,” he says, grinning. 

We think Harry might be tone-deaf, though, because we heard a grown man singing Let It Go from Frozen in the back of his cab, and it wasn’t pretty. 

Harry’s been driving cabs for seven years but decided to go Maxi with his iMax two and a half years ago, and came up with the idea of the karaoke machine, which is beautifully set off by some disco-ball lighting that plays on the roof while you sing. 

“Normally people see a big seven-seater and think ‘Oh no’, but they get in my cab, see the karaoke machine and straight away they’re singing and taking selfies of themselves, then they ask for my card and they book me in for their parties,” Harry says.

“My idea was to be something special over other cabs, because if you’re not special, people won’t remember you.” Amazingly, he doesn’t even charge any extra for letting you sing in his ear.
Harry, who runs the karaoke system through the car’s standard speakers, which sound impressive, says he’s very happy with his choice of Hyundai, and even describes his iMax as “beautiful”
“I like the Hyundai, it’s beautiful for my business, and a beautiful car,” he says.

“And I like that it can carry seven people and actually fit all their luggage, because other seven seaters might get the people in but there’s no room for bags.”
His iMax has done an incredible 255,000 kilometres in just two years and still looks, and feels, in remarkably good condition. 

Harry says that Wham’s Last Christmas is his most popular song at this time of year, but when little Liam, five, from WA - who’s attending school at Westmead Hospital while his parents care for his sick brother, was also keen on the Frozen soundtrack. 

Like all of the kids we had trying cabbie-oke, he was nervous at first, but was soon drawn into the music and the moment, forgetting that anyone is watching and belting it out like a slightly deeper-voiced Queen Elsa.
As more and more parents, and even some enthusiastic teachers, climbed in to have a cabbie-oke go you could see their smiles reflected on Harry’s face as he bobbed around, handing out microphones. 
“It’s great fun, making people happy, it makes my job much more than a taxi driver, and to come somewhere special like this and make these kids’ days happier is a great day for me,” he says.

From the reactions of those taking part, he might just have picked up a few extra Christmas party bookings in Sydney as well.

If you’re a sick kid or one of their anguished parents, there’s no good time to be in a children’s hospital, but it can be particularly hard for the little ones in the Christmas season, which is why the staff, with some help from generous donors, make such a huge effort to make it feel, and look, special.

This year Hyundai Help for Kids donated $5000 to help decorate the various wards at Westmead Children’s Hospital, and to dress up the incredibly hardworking and love-giving nursing staff who work there. 

Nurses are transformed into princesses, super heroes and fairies for the Hospital’s Party Day, which is held in early December and features all kinds of entertainment for the kids, including visits from Santa, famous footballers and even special, hospital-friendly dogs.

The ward’s decorations, however, stay up for the whole lead in to Christmas, and they really are a sight for sickly eyes.

It’s hard not to smile when entering a children’s ward where the entire double-entry doors have been turned into a giant Minion of blue, yellow and black crepe, with the magnetic door fasteners seconded as his eyes.
Inside this “One in a Minion” themed ward, every spare inch of space seems to be taken up with the hugely popular cartoon characters, of both the yellow and purple variety, with party plates turned into faces, Christmas trees festooned with Minion toys and flashing lights everywhere.

While Hyundai’s charitable generosity helped pay for the materials, the nurses put in huge effort to create the themed wards, often working at night or volunteering their time at weekends to make them look so amazing.

Just down the hall is another ward with a Toy Story theme that looks like it’s actually been fitted out by the people at Pixar. Soldiers parachute from the ceiling, Buzz and Woody smile at you from every corner and aliens seem to be multiplying before your eyes on the walls.

As you might have guessed, decorating the wards becomes a bit of a competition, but with so much effort put in it would be impossible to pick a winner. It’s the children, in the end, who win.