Big dreams close to a reality
CLERMONT'S Rhys Wood was only days off returning from a working holiday in Canada when a snowboarding accident left him with a spinal injury, changing his life forever.
Now, 18 months on from the accident, the 25-year-old has his heart set on returning to his active lifestyle.
Mr Wood is an avid golfer, along with his family, and spent one year of his trip working at a golf course.
"I've played golf since I was a junior, I've played a lot of sports,” he said.
After spending a month in a hospital in Vancouver, Mr Wood was transferred to Brisbane's Princess Alexandra Hospital to undertake rehabilitation, where he met Ben Tullipan, Australia's worst-injured survivor of the 2002 Bali bombing terrorist attacks, which left him without his legs.
Mr Tullipan started running Empower Golf clinics in Queensland hospitals, encouraging paraplegics, quadriplegics and the mobility challenged to live their life to the fullest, with the help of a ParaGolfer.
The all-terrain wheelchair raises the user into a standing position, allowing for a conventional golf swing, as well as for any other activities requiring a stand-up position such as fishing, archery and shooting.
Mr Wood said when he heard he wouldn't walk again "it's pretty shattering” but the ParaGolfer brought him hope.
"Once I found this ParaGolfer, it was a bit enlightening to be able to go back to do something I used to be able to do,” he said.
"You can take it fishing and stuff like that too. My sister lives in Mackay and I'll be able to go fishing with my little nephew.
"And just that standing feature as well, it's just some normality - to be able to stand up and talk to people.”
When he first used the ParaGolfer, Mr Tullipan said his face "just lit up, he absolutely loved it”.
"He (Rhys Wood) absolutely loves the game and he hits the ball really, really well,” he said.
"ParaGolfer is not just for golf, it's for anything you would do in a standing position.
"He could stand up at the bar for a counter meal at the pub and talk eye to eye.
"It would allow him to drive from his house, around to the pub easily and be able to stand up and feel part of the community.”
Through many fundraisers and community support, Mr Wood is hoping to purchase his own ParaGolfer to get back to the activities he loves.
Mr Wood will show just how much the machine can do as he joins the community, competing in a golf day at Clermont tomorrow, with all funds raised going towards his own ParaGolfer.
Join Clermont's Blue Golf Rally for Rhys
THE Clermont Golf Club, with the help of the community, is holding a Blue Golf Rally to help Rhys Wood get back to playing his favourite game.
Golfer or not, all members of the surrounding community are invited to take part in the day.
All funds raised will go towards a paragolfer for Mr Wood, valued at $39,000.
Mr Wood said if they were able to raise the money, he would be stoked, "words just couldn't describe”.
"We'll get there one day, it mightn't be this time but we'll get there eventually,” he said.
"Every dollar counts.”
Ben Tullipan from Empower Golf said the "smile on his (Rhys Wood) face when he's in the paragolfer is unbelievable”.
"For him to be able to have a paragolfer, stand up and have an eye to eye contact, it's life changing, it's huge,” he said.
Mr Wood is encouraging players to "just come along and have a good day”.
"Come and have some drinks and some food and just enjoy the day,” he said.
The nine hole four-ball ambrose will cost $15 per player, with a 10am shotgun start.
Late entries will be accepted on the day.
For more information see the Clermont Golf Club Facebook page.
Local businesses are also encouraged to donate prizes to raffle or auction or donate to the cause itself by contacting Ben Tullipan on ben@empowergolf .com.au