August 26, 2014

James Thomas is on a mission to brighten the lives of children who have lost someone they love through his foundation, Feel the Magic. A resident of Vermont, he and his family moved into one of the original display homes on Holly Place in 2011. They’d been living in Plumpton when they fell in love with Vermont on a visit to friends in the area.

James grew up in Sydney but he remembers visiting extended family in Queensland and says Vermont reminds him of Toowoomba: “It has that country feel but it’s close enough to everything.”

Newly arrived in Vermont, they soon discovered a new group of friends. “I love living in a cul de sac where everyone is so friendly,” says James. “We’d really never experienced that before – we’ve made friends here for life.”

He says the space in their new home was a huge selling point. And as it was a display home, there wasn’t much to do to make it perfect. “I’ve just enclosed the outdoor area to create an extra indoor/outdoor room,” he explains.

“My favourite thing about a Vermont winter is when everyone in the street gets together over an open fire. The kids toast marshmallows, we share a few beers – it’s a great time to get together with family and friends.”

The day the Thomases moved in was a bittersweet one – it was James’ birthday, and it was also the day his mother unexpectedly passed away from a brain aneurysm. He had originally intended she would live with them, after also losing his father in 2005.

During his grieving, James realised the successful life he had created through property investment and running his own business was no longer enough. And his path to find purpose would lead him to an unexpected place – Disneyland.

Feel the Magic provides families who have lost a parent (or child) the chance to visit Disneyland – to have an experience where they can remember someone in a magical way and have an adventure together as a family, away from the everyday routine.

One of the first families to go was from Northmead. “The mother said to me it was the first time she’d felt like she had before her husband passed away,” says James. “She finally relaxed and re-connected with her three young daughters.”

Thanks to Feel the Magic, five families from various parts of Australia will be having this experience in 2014. But the charity is also touching families much closer to home – Feel the Magic held a major fundraising event on 8 June at the Pitt Town and Districts Sports Club to send Bridget Wright’s family to Disneyland, following the tragic schoolyard accident in February. “It was a Family Fun Day. Kids’ rides, Disney characters, a food market and exhibitions, auctions and raffles, and even a lawn bowls competition.”

It’s another good reason to bring people from the community together, for a very good cause.

Visit to find out more.

We love meeting our Vermont neighbours, and have also had the pleasure of speaking to Vermont’s first residents, the Leeson family, as well as the Tobin family who live in Riverland.  If you live in Vermont and would like to tell your story feel free to email us at, we’d love to share it.

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