Anna is a reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Tauranga teen to get beach wheelchair

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SO CLOSE: Enough funds has been raised for Josh to get a wheelchair to get to the beach. PHOTO/ANDREW WARNER
SO CLOSE: Enough funds has been raised for Josh to get a wheelchair to get to the beach. PHOTO/ANDREW WARNER

A Tauranga teenager with a love for the sand and surf could soon be able to dip his toes in the ocean thanks to generous donations from the community.

Seventeen-year-old Josh Laforteza was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, microcephaly (smallness of the head) and severe developmental delay when he was about four months old.

His doctor, emergency department specialist Suzanne Moran and colleague of Josh's parents, started a Givealittle page to buy a special wheelchair with off road tyres to allow him to go on to the beach.

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The community response was such that they were able to order a wheelchair with specialised wheels to go not only to the beach, but also to parks and forest walks.

In total, 6,500 was raised for the wheelchair. The Givealittle page generated $2,102, Bayfair Shopping Centre donated a further $2,000 and the remainder was donated by Legacy Trust

Josh's mother Kaye Narciso Laforteza said the support they had received for Josh's wheelchair was "mind blowing".

"I'm so gobsmacked, I don't know what to say, I'm so grateful," she said.

Dr Moran said she thought it would take them until December to raise the funds for the wheelchair.

"Peter [Josh's father] and Kaye are so humbled how people have reached out and helped ."

"The main thing is that it packs down into a carry bag, which means they could get it in the boot of a standard car and take it on holiday," Dr Moran said.

Josh, Mrs Narciso Laforteza and Mr Laforteza visited the Bayfair Shopping Centre this week to meet Bayfair Centre Manager Steve Ellingford.

He said he saw a story about the fundraiser in the Bay of Plenty Times and thought, "My goodness, we can help Josh."

"He's a good kid, it was nice, we were quite privileged to help people in these situations," he said.

Legacy Trust trustee Gregory Brownless said he wanted to be able to help get Josh the wheelchair as soon as possible.

"We said we would put the difference in so it could be done straight away."

"It's just great to think his life will be that much better."

Dr Moran said she would be ordering the wheelchair soon, and hoped it would arive in five weeks.

- Bay of Plenty Times

For more information on the Tauranga Disability Advisory Group and accessibility in the Bay, go to:

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