Shaun Kennett (left) and Phil Nealy at a charity car wash at the Dave Wheaton Pontiac to help raise money for Kennett to purchase a new hand cycle.

Community helps Fairfield man buy new hand cycle

Phil Nealy and Sprott Shaw Victoria students, helped raise more than $3,200 to assist Shaun Kennett purchas a new hand cycle device

Faculty and students at Sprott Shaw College have made a big difference in the life of a local quadriplegic.

Phil Nealy, a counsellor with Sprott Shaw Victoria, along with roughly a dozen students, helped raise more than $3,200 to assist Fairfield’s Shaun Kennett in purchasing a new hand cycle device to help him recover from recent surgery.

“I was amazed to see people I did not even know put on this fundraiser for me,” Kennett said. “The efforts of the volunteers and the generosity of the donors are appreciated. I feel very lucky and honoured that anyone would do this for me.”

Kennett was born with spina bifida, a permanently disabling birth defect that occurs when a baby is in the womb and the spinal column doesn’t close all the way. He recently had surgery to remove cancerous tumours from his lower back, but the new device was not covered under his health care plan.

Nealy, a fellow quadriplegic, sprang into action when he heard of Kennett’s issue.

“Shaun works part time for B.C. Ambulance, he doesn’t qualify for benefits from them, he doesn’t meet the needs test for provincial assistance either, and I thought that’s just wrong,” said Nealy. “The hand cycle costs over $3,200 to purchase, so he’s basically being penalized for working.”

Nealy, along with several students and staff, put on a car wash and barbecue at Dave Wheaton Pontiac and raised roughly $1,500.

Then, an anonymous local philanthropist heard about the cause and contributed the remaining $1,700 needed to purchase the device, that will allow Kennett to exercise.

“The tumour that I had caused me to gain weight and I was not allowed to exercise. Now that the tumour has been removed, the doctor wants me to exercise to assist with weight loss,” Kennett said.

“I cannot transfer to a regular handcycle and this bike attaches to the front of my wheelchair to make it easier for me to use independently. The power assist will help me with steep hills as I get in shape.”

This isn’t the first time Nealy has raised money for a worthy cause. He’s also organized fundraisers for diabetes, epilepsy, the Heart and Stroke foundation and other initiatives.

“I feel very fortunate. I broke my neck in four places 27 years ago and I was told I would never move again. I have regained enough movement to remain independent,” he said.

“I have tremendous empathy for people like Shaun who I believe have fallen through the cracks – and for me, it’s a true pleasure to give.”

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