An upcoming indoor rowing fundraising is giving hope to children like Whanganui-born Harry Middleton who lives with autism but has found joy through riding horses.

The 10-year-old joined Whanganui's Riding for Disabled Association (RDA) totally non-verbal and struggling to cope with day-to-day life.

"He spent this first five weeks at RDA throwing sand, screaming, taking his clothes off and ignoring the horses," RDA's Sally Gray said.

But within six weeks Harry found the courage to hop on a horse and not long after whispered two words that gave his mother some peace: "Harry's Ok", he said.


On Saturday November 17, the North Rotary Club will be hosting their third annual fundraiser at Wanganui Collegiate School. This year all funds will go towards supporting RDA.

Gray said RDA really appreciated the support the Whanganui North Rotary Club were giving them as it was always a challenge without any Government funding.


"We spend a lot of time fundraising and applying for grants, so having an organisation like Rotary organise a fundraising event for us is a huge bonus for us.

"The money raised from this event will go towards the purchase of our land on the corner of Purnell and London Street," Gray said.

Rotary organiser Tony Hodge said it was a fantastic opportunity to get behind a charity that often went under the radar.

"Hearing the impact RDA has on these children's lives is incredible and it's great to be able to support that."

The event will involve seven races including: teen girls, teen boys, parents versus teachers versus coaches, medical, corporate, rowing club and a celebrity challenge.

Hodge said he couldn't reveal who would be the celebrity guests as final logistics were still being arranged but said the amount of businesses getting involved was fantastic to see.


"The Whanganui District Health Board is entering a number of teams so we had to give them their own category and the CEO Russell Simpson will be apart of the celebrity race which is exciting."

Harry doing what he loves best
Harry doing what he loves best

Hodge said he expected the event would rally a crowd of around 200 as it had done in previous years.

Last year, the fundraiser gathered around $3000 for Whanganui District Health Boards arts project and the year before that $2500 was raised for surgical equipment for Dr P J Faumui to take to Samoa.

"This year we would hope to get around $3000."

Tickets - including food and drink - can be purchased for $25 by contacting Hodge on 021677807.

About RDA

The core purpose of RDA is to provide interaction with horses to develop increased ability, independence and self-worth for children and adults living with a wide range of special needs.

At present, Wanganui RDA had 57 riders, 11 horses and two miniatures.