More than $33,000 was raised from an auction to send Te Awamutu Special Olympics swimmers Unity Collins, Portia Johnson and Deshan Walallavita to the World Games in Abu Dhabi from March 13-21.

Rugby league superstars Kevin Walters and Glenn Lazarus rallied behind Te Awamutu's Special Olympics Club.

The two former Australian internationals were guest speakers at the fundraising dinner/auction at Trust Waikato Te Awamutu Events Centre.

Te Awamutu swimmers, from left, Portia Johnson, Deshan Walallavita and Unity Collins (right) with head coach for aquatics at Special Olympics Te Awamutu. Photo / Colin Thorsen
Te Awamutu swimmers, from left, Portia Johnson, Deshan Walallavita and Unity Collins (right) with head coach for aquatics at Special Olympics Te Awamutu. Photo / Colin Thorsen

The pulling power of event organiser, Te Awamutu Special Olympics head coach Shelley Blair to secure two such high profile guest speakers resulted in 300 people coming along to a great cause and to hear two NRL legends.

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Walters and Lazarus told some great yarns. They played against each other, were mates but played for different states. They have known each other for 30 years and have a great friendship.

Walters said they have both been to dinner auctions over in Australia but felt the people were only there to get what they wanted, pay as little as they could for the auction and didn't care at all about the cause.

Te Awamutu Special Olympics Club member Jarrod Gilbert displays the 1972 Olympics gold medal winning NZ Rowing Men's Eight signed T-shirt that fetched the highest price of $3000. Photo / Cathy Asplin
Te Awamutu Special Olympics Club member Jarrod Gilbert displays the 1972 Olympics gold medal winning NZ Rowing Men's Eight signed T-shirt that fetched the highest price of $3000. Photo / Cathy Asplin

They were overwhelmed by the generosity in Te Awamutu, the spirit that was evident in the auction and the empathy for the athletes and the cause.

Lazarus talked about his stint in politics, saying he soon realised that many politicians were there for themselves and not the 'people' which made him very angry and frustrated.

It was one of the reasons he didn't continue, although he did say it is in the back of his mind to return.

Special Olympics New Zealand representative swimmers Unity Collins, Portia Johnson and Deshan Walallavita with guest speakers Glen Lazarus (left) and Kevin Walters (right). Photo / Cathy Asplin
Special Olympics New Zealand representative swimmers Unity Collins, Portia Johnson and Deshan Walallavita with guest speakers Glen Lazarus (left) and Kevin Walters (right). Photo / Cathy Asplin

MC James McOnie and auctioneer Andy Transom set the scene for what was a great night full of laughter.

McOnie interviewed the three athletes (now at the World Games in Abu Dhabi) on stage.

Deshan Walallavita said the World Games were being held in Abu Dhabi and Dubai and he had been there before.

Knights cricket representative Peter Bocock with the Broncos NRL team shirt and cap signed by 11 Broncos captains that sold for $2700. Photo / Cathy Asplin
Knights cricket representative Peter Bocock with the Broncos NRL team shirt and cap signed by 11 Broncos captains that sold for $2700. Photo / Cathy Asplin

He will be contesting the 100m freestyle, 50m butterfly and 50m medley relay.

When asked do you swim fast or slow?, Deshan replied: "Very fast."

Portia Johnson said her idols were Sophie Pascoe and Taylor Swift. When asked what they have in common with her, Portia replied: "Sophie is a swimmer like me and has a disability, Taylor is a great singer and kind hearted."

Portia will be competing in the 50m freestyle, 25 backstroke and 25m freestyle relay.

Unity Collins said she will be swimming in the 50m freestyle, 25 backstroke and 25m freestyle relay.

The MC said to Unity: "You told your coach that you wanted her to wear a blindfold at swimming one time, so she can get an idea of what it was like swimming blind. How did that go for her?"

Unity replied: "Well, she didn't want to dive off the block, so dived in beside the block."

How did that go? "Not that well actually, she did a big belly flop."

And what about swimming up and down the lane? "She went crooked for a while, going from one side to the other."

Blair said the club was extremely grateful to everyone who helped make this year's fundraising event such a success, especially the businesses, teams and individuals who provided sporting memorabilia and gifted other auctions items.

Of the items up for auction, the 1972 Olympics gold medal winning NZ Rowing Men's Eight signed T-shirt fetched the highest price of $3000.

Other items to fetch over $1000 were Sir Colin Meads' Harlequins jersey $2000, a broken Mitchell Santner cricket bat $1900, Sealy Comfort queen bed donated by Homeward $1600, Joelle King (World No 4, NZ No 1 squash player) signed memorabilia $1500, signed cricket shirt by current Black Caps team $2000, Chiefs' jersey (signed to be framed) $1500, golf and social time with Ian Foster and Scott McLeod (the two coaches were split up, people had the option of either bidding for Ian or Scott).

Ian was sold for $1500 and Scott $1400, Mary Fisher (NZ Paralympic blind athlete) signed memorabilia $1000.

Four paintings were part of the auction. Theresa Siemonek, local artist and art facilitator at Enrich+, had donated an art piece Pirongia in the Mist which sold for $450.

Peter Crawford, Enrich+ artist and athlete of Special Olympics Te Awamutu, sold his donated art piece Landmark for $600.

Willy Bardoul, artist at Enrich+, sold his donated art work Seagull Point for $800 and Sarah Griffin, enrich+ artist and athlete of Special Olympics Te Awamutu, sold her art piece April Sun for $1000.

At the end of the auction, Kevin Walters pulled out a Broncos shirt and cap signed by 11 Broncos captains. This sold for $2700.

Adding to the atmosphere — talented Year 10 Te Awamutu College student, Hannah Yarndley entertained the guests by singing on arrival and also through dinner.