Ruth is the human interest reporter and a photographer for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Dinner raises$65k for life-changing surgery

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Austin Manning fundraising dinner with the Chiefs rugby team. Sam Cane left and Austin Manning. Photo/George Novak
Austin Manning fundraising dinner with the Chiefs rugby team. Sam Cane left and Austin Manning. Photo/George Novak

The money needed to make Austin Manning's dream come true has been raised thanks to a mammoth effort by the 2016 Gallagher Chiefs.

On Wednesday night the Tauranga community along with the Chiefs got together and raised $65,000 for the little boy who needs life-changing overseas surgery.

Austin, 7, is one of 7000 in New Zealand with cerebral palsy. He suffers from periventricular leukomalacia (a brain injury), asymmetric spastic quadriplegia, developmental delay and has problems with his vision.

Aaron Cruden pictured at the Austin Manning fundraising dinner with the Chiefs rugby team. Photo/George Novak
Aaron Cruden pictured at the Austin Manning fundraising dinner with the Chiefs rugby team. Photo/George Novak

There are no operations available in New Zealand to relieve the spasticity of his limbs caused by the cerebral palsy - yet there is one in the US. The surgery, which reduces muscle stiffness, is offered by Dr Park at St Louis Children's Hospital.

The operation would be a game-changer for Austin but his family needed at least $100,000 to get him there - and now they have done it.

Austin's dad, Brett Manning, said it was an incredible evening.

"The Chiefs were fantastic. Right from the management to the players. They were all a great bunch of guys who had so much love and aspirations for Austin."

Mr Manning said the fundraising dinner flowed with lots of joking and laughter.

"I think that reflected on the generosity of the people at the auction."

Read more: Punishing hill run helps Chiefs raise cash for Bay lad's surgery

An exact figure had not be tallied yet but he estimated $65,000 had been raised in Wednesday night's auctions.

"It's mind-blowing how people opened their wallets up and bought some pretty good prizes. I didn't see one person leave that place that didn't enjoy themselves."

Prizes included custom-made surfboards signed by the Chiefs squad, a fishing trip and signed All Blacks and Chiefs jerseys which were all auctioned off by Brian King of Harcourts.

"$150 worth of wine went for $3000. At the end of the auction the auctioneer auctioned off nothing for $4000. He sold nothing for $4000, so it just shows you the generosity of the people who were out there.

"We're up to about $125,000 for the trip. It's a huge weight off our shoulders. The generosity in our community has just blown us away ... and the Chiefs sealed the deal with such a fantastic evening."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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