Attending a major sporting event last year had such a positive effect on a young Levin boy that he wants to pack his wheelchair and togs and compete again.

Basic daily tasks that most people take for granted are a challenge for Rawiri Tristram, who was born with spina bifida - an incomplete closing of the backbone and membranes around the spinal cord - and a displaced hip.

His grandmother Mabel Tasker and her partner Roy Freegard are raising Rawiri. The 10-year-old came to live with them at their Levin home six years ago, unhealthy and struggling with asthma.

With the help of a generous Levin community Rawiri was able to attend the Halberg Junior Disability Games in Auckland last year, where he was awarded the Spirit of the Games award and trophy.


The trophy came as a compete surprise and sits proudly on display in their home. They were nearly in the van on their way back to Levin when they were beckoned back into the hall, and were met with deafening applause as he received the award.

Roy Freegard, Cameron Leslie, Rawiri Tristram and Mabel Tasker.
Roy Freegard, Cameron Leslie, Rawiri Tristram and Mabel Tasker.

It was an emotional moment, and one they would never forget, she said.

The whole experience was one Rawiri cherished, giving him a chance to rub shoulders with positive role models that empowered him with the courage to try new things.

Meeting other children and adults facing with similar challenges relating to their disabilities taught Rawiri that he wasn't alone and he could achieve things he might not have thought were possible.

Since moving to Levin the St Joseph's School student had thrived and learnt to swim, a feat that required courage. He was initially frightened of the water and couldn't put his head under water, but with perseverance and lessons he began to thrive.

He now hit the water three times a week for training. The Halberg Trust funded the swimming lessons, enabling him to overcome his fear of water and build strength.

In the water, he has the sensation that he can walk.

Rawiri Tristram at the head of the field last year.
Rawiri Tristram at the head of the field last year.

Rawiri recently started using a bike inner tube to lock his legs together while swimming as they were slowing him down. Tying them together created less drag in the water.


He propelled himself through the water with the strength of his arms alone.

Initially he could only swim a short distance, but is now able to swim more in 50m events across all the swimming stroke events, and had taught himself tumble turns.

Out of the water, he was also competing in wheelchair sprint races.

Tasker said she was humbled by the generous support Rawiri received from the Levin community last year, which enabled him to compete, covering transport and accommodation expenses.

Businesses and members of the community banded together to get Rawiri to the start line, for which they were grateful.

Cameron Leslie made a big impression on Rawiri Tristram last year.
Cameron Leslie made a big impression on Rawiri Tristram last year.

There was still $400 left over in a bank account that wasn't used last year, but another $1600 was needed to cover Rawiri's competition expenses this year, and they were hopeful that they could attract some support again.

Tasker said her grandson still faced daily challenges, including alienation and bullying, and just wanted to fit in, like everybody else.

She addressed his class one day to explain to the other children that Rawiri was just like them and given a choice, he wouldn't be in a wheelchair.

"I said to them 'he is one of you'. He is your brother."

The games would again be held at Kings College, on October 11, 12 and 13.

Last year it attracted more than 150 disabled and visually impaired athletes ranging in age from eight to 21, competing in 21 different sports, from athletics, swimming, triathlon, football, golf and waka ama.

If anybody could help Rawiri they can contact Mabel on 0273673376 or (06)3673376.