DISABLED Old Selbornian and artist Alan Downey, 39, is the proud owner of one of the best wheelchairs on the planet – thanks to his caring old schoolmates.
His brand new, award-winning, R78500 Puma 40 motorised chair comes with indicators, bright LED headlights and electronic adjustment motors. It reaches speeds of 10km/h and can travel for 20km before its batteries need recharging.
It was bought for him from the R130000 raised by his Old Selbornian schoolmates, including Springbok rugby captain André “Avo” Vos and another Bok captain legend, Bob Skinstad.
A fundraiser was held at Hotel Osner on the beachfront last year and the drive raised R130000 – and Downey’s spirits. He said the new chair has improved his posture and will prevent pressure sores.
The event, with full support of Selborne College, and more than 200 Old Selbornians, paid for his old chair to be refurbished, a new shower chair, and a caregiver for four months.
Alan broke his neck 18 years ago, diving into a sandbank at Yellow Sands. He has minimal use of one hand, and was struggling with a wheelchair kept together with duct tape before his old schoolmates came to his assistance.
Alan told the Dispatch: “It’s great. It is more comfortable. I am sitting much better . I had developed bad posture after years of painting. But the new chair is better for my lungs. It doesn’t put pressure on my organs and I can straighten my back.”
He said the new chair enabled him to do more web design work, and draw more cartoons.
“It is also easier to drive longer distances. It’s one of those little things in life that makes a big difference. It’s improved my health.”
The classmate who rallied the troops, Colin Beard, said they were astounded at the response.
“We still have R9000 to put towards the next fundraiser,” he said.
Vos said: “It is wonderful to hear Alan is doing well and is in high spirits.”
Skinstad’s business manager Sue Anderson said Skinstad would report on the story in his e-mail newsletter Team Talk! — firstname.lastname@example.org