Disabled Surfers Association - South Coast Branch, receive new beach ready wheelchair

31 years ago after he was in a motorbike accident, Garry Blaschke got a group of surfer friends together to help him whilst he recovered and tried to surf again. Years later, this group has blossomed into the Disabled Surfers Association of Australia which now has 16 branches around Australia and New Zealand, including a branch on the south coast. The South Coast Branch started with the help of a well-known school teacher and local surf guru Jim Bradley and has now been operational for 25 years, running 3 events per season in Mollymook, Thirroul and Gerroa. They are a totally voluntary organisation that relies on community volunteers and the good will of local businesses to survive.

When South Coast Branch president Ian Picton heard of the plight of 5 year old Holly Burns, he submitted an application for funding to the Illawarra Community Foundation for a beach ready wheelchair.

Holly has a terminal condition called Vanishing White Matter Leukodystrophy which wears away myelin on the brain and affects all aspects of her life. She needs assistance to do every day activities and perform normal bodily functions. She cannot walk, talk properly, go out in the sun for long periods of time and needs constant supervision. Holly also requires help with feeding, drinking, toileting and a host of other tasks that we take for granted. As she cannot walk, it makes normal childhood experiences difficult…including going to the beach, which she loves.

“Little Holly attended our Disabled Surfers Association; Have a Go Surf Day, at Mollymook beach last November for the first time. Her Mum Amanda said that Holly just loved the beach but that they found it hard both financially and physically to get her there.” Says Ian Picton. “Amanda asked our association for help in trying to source a chair that would be suitable for them to use and so we knew we had to do something to help.”

Ian promptly made a submission to the Illawarra Community Foundation and the board approved the purchase of a $5,300 beach ready wheelchair for the Disabled Surfers Association; South Coast Branch, which Holly is able to access for as long as the family needs.

The Foundation advised Ian of the successful application, and asked him to keep it under wraps until the presentation to Holly. On the 26th of March, Holly arrived for the Disabled Surfers Association’s 16th Annual “Hands on Day” at Gerroa. Waiting to surprise her with the new wheelchair was Marty Haynes from i98FM, Ann Tanks from the Convoy Committee and representatives from Illawarra Truck Repairs & Spares, who donated $102,000 to the i98FM Illawarra Convoy last year.

“We were delighted to surprise Holly with the wheelchair at Gerroa on Sunday. The look on her face bought a tear to my eye” said i98FM Breakfast Show host Marty Haynes. “Seeing the joy a piece of equipment like this can bring to a young girl and her family, really enforces what Convoy is all about; helping those families who are doing it tough, dealing with potentially life threatening medical conditions”.

For more information on how to apply for funding through the Illawarra Community Foundation, visit www.illawarraconvoy.com.au

Disabled Surfers Association - South Coast Branch, receive new beach ready wheelchair