Richie Allen and wife Kylie outside their new home in Bangalow, which was built through the support of the Bangalow community.
Richie Allen and wife Kylie outside their new home in Bangalow, which was built through the support of the Bangalow community. Kate O’Neill

Home opens new doors

IN THE three years since Bangalow’s Richie Allen broke his neck playing rugby, he and his family have been living in a kind of limbo.

First came the 10 months in hospital, then a year in disability housing near Brisbane, followed by eight months in a Bangalow home that was not designed to accommodate a quadriplegic.

But now, thanks to the generosity of the Bangalow community, the Allen family can get on with their lives.

Richie, his wife Kylie, and their seven-year-old daughter Clover have just moved into a new home at Bangalow that was purpose-built for Richie and paid for through donations from the local community.

It is an open plan design, with features like extra-wide hallways and doors to accommodate Richie’s wheelchair, an electrically-operated front door, plus a specially-designed spacious bathroom.

Richie said not having to worry about rent or a mortgage would take ‘a lot of mental anguish’ out of the next phase of his life.

“I know of guys in hospital with the same injury as me who are going to have to stay in government disability housing forever, in areas where they are isolated from their friends and family,” he said.

Richie oversaw construction of the house and was on-site every day for the past eight months. Having formerly run a business as a landscape gardener, he also came up with the master plan for the gardens, which he hopes will be the first step in re-establishing his career. Richie wants to get back into the field by using computer-aided drafting to create his designs.

Neil Moran, of the Richard Allen 14 Fund – 14 was Richie’s number when he played rugby for Bangalow – said fundraising began for Richie shortly after the accident.

He said it was a ‘massive effort’, with close to $250,000 raised. There were a series of fundraising lunches at Bangalow’s A&I Hall, donations from individuals, and the block of land was sold at a ‘friendly’ price.

Many of the materials used in the house’s construction were donated by Northern Rivers businesses and the tradespeople who worked on the house did it for free or at heavily discounted rates. “From the get-go, it’s been remarkable,” Mr Moran said.

Richie and Kylie will host a housewarming and thank you party this Saturday to celebrate the generosity of their community. “The change it has already made to our lives has been extraordinary,” Kylie said.



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