What began with a simple idea by Michael and Aaron Foster, turned into a life-changing journey for an entire team.
For 17-year-old Michael who lives with muscular dystrophy, sporting options have been limited but that didn’t stop him from dreaming of one day playing football.
Michael wanted more than anything to be on the pitch, yet Powerchair football comes with a hefty price tag.
At the time, Michael was training with his Canberra United Powerchair teammates using personal electric wheelchairs, with bumpers attached to the framing. Little could they afford the staggering $14,000 required to buy a Powerchair from the US.
So Michael and his twin brother Aaron reached out to the Rotary Club of Aurora Gungahlin with a proposal.
“We both had a thought – why don’t we ask Rotary for proper chairs?”,” Michael shared.
The Fosters expected little more than a consideration, yet chairman of the Gungahlin Rotary club, John Platten, listened to the boys’ ideas and invited the challenge to raise the funds needed for nine chairs.
“We actually didn’t think it would happen at all,” Aaron admitted. “We are so lucky to have this opportunity.
“Having my disability, I never thought I would play soccer ever, so the fact that I can has opened up all this independence for me and I feel grateful that I can actually do it.”
Since March, Rotary has been raising funds through sponsorships and club member contributions to buy the chairs, collecting over $120,000.
“After listening to them and finding out the cost, we decided to buy one,” Platten shared. “As we were leaving the meeting we were told, ‘we don’t want one John, we need eight’.
“We did the mathematics and decided to get the eight chairs. We ended up raising enough money for nine.
“It brings a tear to my eyes, it really does.”
Canberra United’s Powerchair team will now be able to compete in the Australian Powerchair Football National Championship competition, which features five Australian teams as well as two teams from New Zealand.
Coach Kelly Stirton said the new chairs will see Canberra United’s Powerchair team reach new heights.
“These nine new chairs are designed for competition with safety barriers, harnesses, headrests, and faster speeds,” Stirton said. “We have been overwhelmed with the support we’ve received getting the chairs to Canberra.
“We want to remind everyone that there are opportunities for people with a disability. Regardless of your age, gender, or disability, there is a sport for you.”