Lions help make Ashton's beach dream reality
IT'S NOW easier for local children will a disability to enjoy the beach with their family, thanks to one woman's drive to give her son freedom and the generosity of several local organisations.
Angela Mathew first hired a beach wheelchair for her son Ashton two years ago on the Gold Coast and they happily basked in the sand and surf.
Ashton has very limited mobility due to a rare genetic condition, which means that family adventures like swimming at the beach or bushwalking are normally off-limits.
But the beach wheelchair - the equivalent of a wheelchair monster truck with its oversized tyres and huge tread - opened up Ashton's world and his ability to participate in life.
"I didn't want to leave Ashton at home while we all went to the beach or bushwalking - he's part of the family and we want him to be with us, not at home with a carer," Ms Matthew said.
"When we used the beach wheelchair it just changed everything - I saw the freedom it gave him and it was amazing to watch."
The expense of having to purchase an beach wheelchair that wouldn't get used every day was not viable for Angela, but when she approached local organisations for help they decided to join forces to purchase an all-terrain wheelchair for all Lismore families.
The Lismore City Lions Club purchased the chair for $8300 in partnership with the Lions Northern NSW Community Trust.
Lifestyle Solutions will cover the cost of ongoing maintenance and repairs, DAISI will operate the booking and hire system, and the Goonellabah Sports and Aquatic Centre GSAC will store the chair and act as a collection/drop-off point.
Spinal Cord Injuries Australia - Northern Rivers has kindly provided training for GSAC staff.
"This is a truly wonderful partnership that will give families the chance to use and enjoy this fantastic piece of equipment and experience new things as a family," Lismore City Council's Partnering and Community Engagement Officer Catherine Rosenbaum said.
"The Lions club have shown such generosity in donating the funds and we could not have done this without their support.
"Some beach wheelchairs are quite large and cumbersome but this one fits into a family SUV, so it's very portable and family friendly.
"We are so excited that local families can hire the beach wheelchair and start enjoying the great outdoors.
"This project really demonstrates the power of community and organisations working together."
The beach wheelchair is available for pick-up seven days a week from GSAC at 50 Oliver Avenue, Goonellabah.
Summer hours for pick-up and drop-off are Monday to Friday from 6am to 7pm, Saturday 8am to 5pm and Sunday 10am to 5pm.
The chair is available for hire for a 24-hour period.
An individual is required at all times to support the wheelchair when being used outdoors.
Bookings can be made through DAISI on 1800 800 340 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bookings need to be made at least 48 hours in advance and a deposit of $50 transferred by direct deposit to DAISI, which will be refunded upon return of the chair in good condition.
Families are encouraged to book early for the Christmas/holiday period.