Anna is a reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Rower shocked after being given skiff thanks to Make-a-Wish

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Jacob West of Tauriko received his own single rowing skiff from the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
Jacob West of Tauriko received his own single rowing skiff from the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

Tauranga Boys' College student Jacob West thought he was going to Raglan on Saturday, instead he was presented with his own single rowing skiff from the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

"I was shocked," he said. "It's basically brand new. I had never rowed a boat that was in that good condition."

Jacob's mother Jo West said the new skiff meant the world to him.

"To have your own boat is the ultimate, especially for a 17-year-old," she said.

They managed to keep the new boat a surprise from Jacob, up until he saw it.

She said the look on his face was, "absolute shock, he was like, 'what the hell is going on'?"

He had been rowing for four years, and was asked by the Make-a-Wish Foundation what his wish was after he was diagnosed with multiple hemangioblastoma, or tumours, in his central nervous system.

"When they asked me what I wanted, at first I didn't really know what I wanted and I hadn't much time to really think about it."

He decided on a new boat, but had no idea that it would come from rower Toby Cunliffe-Steele, who received silver in the 2016 National Champs for men's premier lightweight single.

Mr Cunliffee-Steele was diagnosed with the same condition as Jacob when he was about 15 and a student at Tauranga Boys' College.

"I got a call from him one night, and I'd been talking to him for the last little bit of the rowing season, and he gave me tips on how he used to cope with things," Jacob said. "Toby gave me motivation and told me that when he was dealing with it, the way he got around stuff was rowing. He found that was the best way he could deal with it, his anger and problems.

"He found he'd been through all of that and it gave him more motivation to achieve his goal of rowing for New Zealand. It gives me a hope that he's done it, it's still possible," he said.

Mr Cunliffee-Steele sold the Make-a-Wish Foundation the skiff he used to train in, which was then refurbished and resprayed by Laszlo Boats.

Jacob also received a set of Concept2 oars, Adidas eyewear and a Rowing New Zealand rowsuit.

Jacob said the gift would help him take his rowing to the next level.

"I was hoping to row at a regional level in the next couple of years of my life, and getting my own boat gives me a whole new opportunity.

"It's a resource that I can use to help get myself better."

He planned to row at the Tauranga Rowing Club this season, trial for the regional club next year, "and then from there see how I go".

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- Bay of Plenty Times

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