Two high school students praised for sticking with their friend through ‘thick and thin’.

"I'm a teacher and I have never seen kids behave like this, it's phenomenal."

With these words Peter van Vroonhoven describes two Whakatane 16-year-olds, Zac Morton and Matthys Wessels, whose selfless care for their wheelchair using classmate Jacob Lane is amazing many in the tight-knit community.

Lane suffers from Duchene muscular dystrophy, a condition which leaves him with severe muscle weakness and unable to do the most basic tasks like dressing and feeding himself.

So step in his two great mates Morton and Wessels. The two Trident High School students willingly spend hours contributing to Lane's care – not only at school but during their free time on weekends as well.


They watch out for him during class, they feed and dress him, lift him in and out of his wheelchair, take him fishing and on other outings – and assist him while he trains and plays powerchair football.

Lane is excelling so well in the sport he has been selected to represent New Zealand in an under 21 powerchair tournament in Sydney in October. Both Morton and Wessels want to be there to support him, but their problem is they have no money.

Which is where van Vroonhoven comes into the story. A leading administrator in powerchair football circles (he is acting president of NZ Powerchair Football and will manage the under 21 team) he noticed the boys at a recent tournament in Taupo.

"These two boys blew my mind," he says. "It wasn't just Jacob they helped, they helped all the other kids too, taking their t shirts on and off, feeding them, helping them with drink bottles - everything.

"They're 16 years old and they've stuck with their mate through thick and thin - and it has been pretty thick - and enabled him to have a full life."

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van Vroonhoven was so impressed by Morton and Wessels he nominated them for an ASB Good as Gold award, the bank this week naming them as the latest recipients. It is giving them $5000 each so they can go to Australia to be with Lane.

"Jacob's story is an amazing one of not letting life get in the way of reaching your goals, but it's also one of incredible friendship," says ASB lower North Island regional manager Barry Coffey.


"Zac and Matthys have been there for Jacob through a lot, and we think it's only fitting that we help them to be there when Jacob gets the chance to compete internationally," he says. "We're incredibly proud that this award is going to such deserving recipients."

The boys have been friends since meeting in school three years ago and Morton says he and Wessels get as much back from Lane as they give him.

"I just wanted to help him," he says. "He is a normal boy who wants to lead a normal life.

He is well and truly a positive person and for Matthys and I it feels really good when he achieves things, when we see the smile on his face."

Morton says besides helping Lane at school and at powerchair football they often take him fishing at places like Ohope Beach and off the wharf in Whakatane. "He really enjoys it. We help him reel the fish in and he's had some good catches including a massive kahawai, snapper and even a couple of baby hammerhead sharks."

Lane's mother Katrina says the three boys just clicked. "They do everything for each other and it has taken a load off my mind, I don't worry so much when he's at school if I know Zac and Matthys are there.

"I think Jacob's personality brings them together and because of him the other two tend to want to better themselves."

She says her and husband Mark knew something was wrong with Jacob when he was just 15 months old: "He wasn't doing what other infants were, it seemed he was slower at everything.

"He was quite able for a long time but as the years went by he got progressively weaker until by the age of nine he had to start using a wheelchair," she says.

"At that stage he still had the use of his arms but he has lost even that ability now."

Because his life is physically limited, the Lanes strive to let him experience everything he can.

For a sports-mad teenager this has led to some unforgettable moments. He's been to heaps of big rugby and cricket matches while a family friend Adam Knight, a recent Otago rugby representative, helped organise a meeting in Dunedin with players from the Highlanders, Lane's favourite super rugby team.

He's also met the Chiefs and Crusaders super players - and those from basketball's Breakers side.

And he has other goals to achieve. He has a dream of going to San Francisco to watch the Golden State Warriors in basketball (he is saving money to do this) and wants to pursue a career in media as a sports commentator.

The immediate aim though is to beat Australia in powerchair football. But as his Mum says: "We hope New Zealand win, they usually don't."