Luke’s Story

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One of the most moving letters Don has ever received was written by a 10 year old boy, Luke Cook. Luke explained that his dad started building a pond for his fish and Tom the turtle, but he became very sick and died of leukaemia before the job was finished. Luke’s mum, Donna was pregnant at the time of Luke’s dad’s illness and was told the baby would have to be induced early if Luke’s dad was to see the baby before he died. He did see the baby but died two days later. Donna had tried to complete the pond but hurt her back in the process. Luke asked Don if he would finish the pond as a surprise for his mum, so she doesn’t cry anymore. He said that if the pond was finished he, his sisters and their baby brother would be so happy, and their dad’s star would shine really brightly.

Because the pond leaked, Don decided that the best course of action would be to dismantle and rebuild it, keeping as close to the original concept as possible. Don was assisted by McLeod’s Daughters star, Aaron Jeffrey, who also took Luke shopping for new fish and another tortoise to keep Tom company.


Spades, trowel and shovel
Landscaper’s rake
Stanley knife, secateurs, scissors
Brickie’s trowel
Wooden float
Spirit level
Survey (marker) paint
Tape measure
Carpenter’s pencil
Cordless drill

Getting started:

1.The first step was to locate Tom the tortoise and put him in a secure place, drain the water and remove the existing pond plants. The pond was then dismantled and the rocks were set aside for reuse in the new pond. The old liner was discarded as it had been damaged by the bricks underneath. The brick frame was also thrown away, enabling Don to start work with a blank canvas. 

2. The new rubber-butyl membrane was laid out on the area to gauge the size of the new pond. Don excavated a hole to a depth of approximately 300-400mm in a free form shape, and then lined it with river sand to level and insulate the liner from any sharp edges.

3. The liner was laid out and held in place with some creek pebbles while Don mortared the first course of perimeter rocks onto the liner. The remaining rocks, including those from the old pond, were dry placed to conceal any exposed liner.

4. A channel was dug from the house to the pond. Conduit to carry the low voltage cable for the pump and pond lights was laid in the channel. The cable was hidden between the edging rocks as they were laid.

5. Don replanted the old pond plants and added some new ones, including arum lilies (Zantedeschia ‘Green Goddess’) and Louisiana iris.

6. The pond was filled with water and stabilised with conditioner, then the new low voltage pump and pond lights were connected.

7. Don planted out the surrounding garden beds with easy care shrubs and ferns to screen the fence and create a soft backdrop for the new pond.

8. Luke released the large fish and the new tortoise into their new home. (Note: Tony, at Hilltop Pet and Aquariums, advised Luke and Aaron that tortoises and fish don’t normally co-exist well. He suggested putting in big fish that could hold their own against the tortoises).

More surprises:

Don contacted Milly & Lehmo from SA.FM’s Breakfast Show and told them about Luke’s letter. They agreed to ask their listeners to chip in and help the family.

Donna was overwhelmed when Milly and Lehmo paid her a visit. They explained that Adelaide listeners had opened their hearts and their wallets, chipping in enough money to pay her rent for a year. They also presented her with a cheque for $10,000 from SA.FM listeners. A further $5000 worth of shopping vouchers was donated by Colonnade Shopping Centre.

The final surprise for the family came at the end of the day when they were saying goodbye to Molly, Lehmo, Aaron, Don and the Burke’s Backyard team. Just when Donna thought all the excitement was over, she was presented with the keys to a new, top of the range Mitsubishi Grandis, donated by Mitsubishi Australia.


Butyl rubber pond liner (4m x 3m) costs about $265 from pond and aquarium specialists
Arum lily (Zantedeschia ‘Green Goddess’) costs around $16 for a 200mm (8″) pot
Louisiana iris costs about $15 for a 200mm (8″) pot

Further information

Milly and Lehmo can be heard in Adelaide on SA.FM (107.1 FM) weekdays from 6am, or visit their website:

Listeners of SA.FM continued to make generous donations and the final sum raised was $20,000 on top of the payment of Donna’s rent for a year.

Hilltop Pet and Aquariums
43 Main South Road
O’Halloran Hill 5159
Phone: (08) 8322 1888