Kangaroo Island wildlife heroes Sam and Dana catch up with Matthew McConaughey

Sam and Dana Mitchell have a one-on-one chat with Matthew McConaughey.
Sam and Dana Mitchell have a one-on-one chat with Matthew McConaughey.

Kangaroo Island wildlife heroes Sam and Dana Mitchell have been rewarded with a one-on-one chat with Matthew McConaughey over a glass of Wild Turkey whiskey.

Wild Turkey creative director, Academy Award winner and chief storyteller Matthew McConaughey unveiled a new initiative as part of Wild Turkey With Thanks, shining a light on Australian local legends who stood with conviction supporting their environment and communities throughout the crises of 2020.

Since visiting in November 2019 to launch the Wild Turkey With Thanks platform, an initiative designed to protect and preserve the wilderness for future generations, McConaughey witnessed the unparalleled year Australians have experienced.

TEXAS CONNECTION: Matthew McConaughey shares a glass of Wild Turkey with Local Legends, Sam and Dana Mitchell from the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park while on the video call. Photo supplied

TEXAS CONNECTION: Matthew McConaughey shares a glass of Wild Turkey with Local Legends, Sam and Dana Mitchell from the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park while on the video call. Photo supplied

From the pandemic coupled with the earlier catastrophic bushfires and floods, McConaughey felt driven to speak to locals who have moving stories of resilience.

Undeterred by the international travel ban, Matthew McConaughey used the magic of video call to personally speak to three Australian Local Legends to have a yarn about the inspirational tales he had heard across the world.

The stories of uncompromising conviction include Dana and Sam Mitchell rescuing over 600 koalas on Kangaroo Island.

WILDLIFE CHEERS: Wild Turkey With Thanks Local Legends, Sam and Dana Mitchell from the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park share a glass of wild turkey on the video call with Matthew McConaughey. Photo supplied

WILDLIFE CHEERS: Wild Turkey With Thanks Local Legends, Sam and Dana Mitchell from the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park share a glass of wild turkey on the video call with Matthew McConaughey. Photo supplied

Dana and Sam Mitchell took over the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park seven years ago and have been renovating the site over the years.

They now have an animal rescue centre there. During the peak of the fires on the island they were receiving upwards of 60 animals a day in need of urgent care.

A humble couple, Dana and Sam are extremely passionate about protecting the native flora and fauna. They are determined to protect and preserve the native species to ensure they are there for future generations.

Just last week, they released their single biggest cohort of rehabilitated koalas, a group of 10 young ones, onto their new bush block.

Wild Turkey creative director, Academy Award winner and chief storyteller Matthew McConaughey on Sam and Dana's screen. Photo supplied

Wild Turkey creative director, Academy Award winner and chief storyteller Matthew McConaughey on Sam and Dana's screen. Photo supplied

He also caught up with Linda and Matthew Rudd saving their 100-year-old pub from the bushfires while being the lifeline for the town of Batlow in New South Wales, and Lin Baird navigating a difficult year to once again help Australians reconnect with the wilderness on horseback in Mount Bogong in Victoria.

See the full-length interviews here on the Wild Turkey website.

The Local Legends stories inspired McConaughey so much that he decided to lend his distinctive voice to record a message for all Australians, advocating for the nation to get out and explore all corners of our country while reconnecting with the great outdoors.

From sleeping under the stars in a swag, to exploring our rugged coastlines and bush, these messages crafted by McConaughey himself are designed to motivate Australians to discover more - while supporting the regeneration of the wilderness and bushfire-affected communities.

McConaughey said he believed in community above all else and wants to urge Australians to not only explore the outdoors but visit, volunteer, say hello or stay a night or two in fire-affected regions.

"Australians are a rare breed," McConaughey said. "When adversity hits them, they come back twice as strong. I know from personal experience, they get their grit from the land.

"These Local Legends drew strength from nature in order to protect it from one of the worst bushfire seasons on record, and I want everyone to know their stories.

It's thanks to them that the Aussie wilderness and their communities remain for us all to connect with. From their mission to mine, I want to give thanks and support these Legends in my work with Wild Turkey."

Helping preserve and regenerate the wilderness for future generations is a central part of Wild Turkey's ongoing work on the With Thanks initiative.

A percentage of proceeds from Wild Turkey's cabin, The Reserve, and Wild Turkey bottles sold in November and December will be donated to the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife in support of bushfire regeneration.

The charity partner of Australia's National Parks, the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife is working towards a five-year plan to plant one million trees in bushfire-affected regions around Australia to restore the habitat that was lost in the catastrophic bushfires.

Wild Turkey today is launching the Wild Turkey Local Legends website wildturkeybourbon.com.au/local-legends - where the nation can discover new places to visit and support, hear from the Local Legends themselves, alongside how to get involved in volunteering programs to help with bush regeneration.

Paolo Marinoni, marketing director, Campari Australia and New Zealand said, "Through all that 2020 has thrown at us, from bushfire-ravaged parks, droughts, floods and a pandemic - it has shown that Australia is a nation of resilience.

Through the With Thanks initiative this year, we are thanking the Local Legends who have stood with conviction and sheer determination throughout the crises of 2020.

We often turn to nature in times of adversity and we hope that by giving thanks and shining a light on these people and regions it encourages Australians to support the regeneration of the wilderness and visit fire-affected regions."

McConaughey continued, "When Mother Nature hit us with her worst, we saw humanity at its best. Now is a prominent time in our history where we can explore our own place to restore the wilderness that restores us."

About Matthew McConaughey: Texas native Matthew McConaughey is an Academy Award-winning actor, a writer, philanthropist, husband and father of three. He's appeared in over 40 feature films that have grossed over US$1 billion dollars. In 2008, McConaughey founded the just keep livin' Foundation, which is dedicated to transformations through programs that teach the importance of decision-making, health, education, and active living. The just keep livin' Foundation presently serves 37 schools in 11 states of the U.S.

In 2016, McConaughey also took on a new role: Creative Director, brand spokesman and chief storyteller for Wild Turkey. In collaboration with Master Distiller Eddie Russell, McConaughey co-created his own bourbon, Wild Turkey Longbranch. He also serves as the Minister of Culture/M.O.C for the upcoming University of Texas sports arena. McConaughey recently released his first book, a memoir entitled Greenlights, which recently became a #1 New York Times Best-Seller.

About Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife: The Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife has a simple mission - to create parks and save species. For 50 years they have worked with conservation partners and local communities to preserve native habitat and protect Australian wildlife.