Rawiri Tristram-Brown is a nine year old who loves swimming, basketball and rugby.

Even though he can't walk, he gives his all to the sports and last year competed at the Halberg Junior Disability Games as the only Horowhenua competitor, winning the prestigious Spirit of the Games award.

Born with spina bifida - an incomplete closing of the backbone and membranes around the spinal cord - and a dislocated hip, Rawiri lives with his grandparents and attends St Joseph's School in Levin.

He is hoping to make it back to this year's Halberg Games in October but the family needs to raise $2000 to make that happen.

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Last year, the event attracted 146 disabled and visually-impaired athletes, aged eight to 21 years, representing 12 regional teams across 21 sports, including athletics, swimming, triathlon, football, golf and waka ama. It was held at Auckland's King's College.

As well as the motivation and support the experience of the event gives Rawiri, he has another reason for wanting to get there - to see the friend, mentor and Paralympian role model he met last year.

"I want to see my best friend Keegan. He's like a brother to me," Rawiri said.
"I want to be like him and go to the Paralympics one day too."

Grandmother Mabel Tasker said Rawiri formed a strong bond with his older teen buddy, and meeting him and other mentors at the Halberg Games was lifechanging.

"When the Paralympics is on TV he gets up at 6am to watch," she said.

"He's really interested in the [runners with] bionic legs - he says he wants those instead of his own legs when he's older so he can run too."

Mrs Tasker says despite his physical disability, Rawiri is a spirited and motivated child who gives things his best effort.

He learned to swim only a few years ago, after being initially scared of the water, and now swims in 25m and 50m races across all the strokes, completing a total of six lengths at last year's games using only his upper body.

Rawiri, who has undergone continued surgeries throughout his life, says that he can't walk normally on land, but in the water he can.

"I like that when I go under the water it's really quiet, and when you relax you can't feel anything," he said.

He also enjoys rugby and basketball, playing on an indoor court with special wheels on his wheelchair.

Wheelchair sprint races are another favourite, and he scooped top times in several events last year.

"I was a bit nervous when we all lined up but as soon as we got started I whizzed away," he said.

Rawiri is practicing hard in the hope of making it to the next games, including special swimming lessons where he is rapidly improving his stroke techniques and has just learned to do tumble turns.

"I run around a lot in my wheelchair too and I race around the shops," he said.
"If my Nanna wants me to find something in the supermarket I go and find it really fast,"

So far, Rawiri's family has raised $400, but they still need another $1600 to make his Halberg Games dream happen.

Mrs Tasker says that they decided to put out a call to the local community to fundraise, even though they had never done that before, because of how much it would mean to their young grandson to be able to attend the Games.

The money is to cover transport and accommodation for the event.

Some initiatives are already underway - St Joseph's School is holding a sausage sizzle for Rawiri on Friday, and the local cycle shop has a gold coin jar on the counter, but there is a long way to go.

CAN YOU HELP RAWIRI?
If anyone, individual or business, is able to sponsor Rawiri and help him make it to the games, please contact Mabel or Roy on 027 367 3376 or 06 367-3376 or emailroyfreegard194@gmail.com