When November 2018 came around, I was absolutely bricking it. A few months earlier I had said yes to an opportunity to speak at an event and share my story, this was going to be my first time speaking for an hour and sharing my story in front of a room full of strangers. I had no idea what kind of speaker I was going to be, how my body would hold up and if everyone would be able to understand my accent. At this point in my life, it had become a common theme to say yes to opportunities before I let my mind convince me otherwise. I remember days before the talk thinking, “why on earth did I say yes and choose to put myself through this.” Choosing to grow and push myself out my comfort zone was uncomfortable which I guess isn’t surprising yet every time I would act surprised. Despite the fear and the voices in my head telling me to run, when the day came, I got up and shared my story of how a Scottish girl with no wheelchair sports experience came to play Wheelchair AFL.
As I approached the stand it felt like I was walking in slow motion, “was it too late to run?”..all eyes were on me. As I got up there, I gripped onto the stand for dear life as my jerks and spasms began to put on a show, I remember looking at my water bottle I had left back at my seat and thinking how thirsty I was already. Speaking through the jerks and spasms can be tiring however I could feel this sense of empowerment as I stood, Jerk and all without any shame. As the nerves started to settle I could feel the support in the room and I just started to flow with it. I shared my story starting from my earliest memories right up to the present day and it felt especially good when I got a few laughs. It came as a shock to me that I was enjoying being up there and speaking. When I was a kid, I had never wanted to speak in front of the class because I recognised that my body behaved differently and speaking in front of people was highlighting the one thing that I worked so hard to hide from the world. I even remember one time, at school, being downgraded because I was told I fidget a lot and played with my hair which was a method I used to disguise my jerks. I never, in a million years would have thought one day I would become a public speaker; I love the surprises that life has in store for us when we choose to rise above the challenges. When I finished my first talk, I was taken aback by the impact my story had made to be people listening. People were coming up to me and opening up to me about their own stories. It was amazing to create a space where people allowed themselves to be vulnerable and reflect on their own lives. Since I was a child, I loved hearing people’s stories and now I was really starting to understand the power of storytelling and that we all have something to share with the world whilst we are here. After my talk, I was introduced to the person who had presented the year before, this person has now become a mentor to me and a huge source of inspiration.
“We will introduce you to Moira Kelly” I was told and the first thing she did when I approached her was to give me the biggest, warmest hug. After the nerves, excitement, and adrenaline running through my body that hug was just what I needed, I felt like I was with family. I couldn’t believe it when she praised me on my talk and stated that more young girls need to hear my talk, I was on a high. To think that part of me wanted to run away, I was so thankful I didn’t let fear dictate my choices because it turned out to be an amazing experience that opened doors for me. After that day, I did some research on Moira Kelly and I was amazed by her humanitarian work and how many lives she had impacted. I was glad that I wasn’t aware of Moira’s amazing work before my talk because knowing that she presented the year before I would have probably felt even more nervous about presenting. At the event, Moira was with a lovely lady called Marilyn and she gave me her card so I could contact them and arrange a time to come over and meet everyone. They both showed me so much kindness that day and I knew I wanted to meet them again. I soon after followed up with Marilyn and was then invited over to Moira’s home for Easter.
When I arrived at Moira’s home for the first time I was instantly made to feel like part of the family. I felt at peace watching the children laughing and running around. I spoke with the parents, volunteers, and friends that were all part of this amazing community. From that day, I became a regular at Moira’s home and volunteered to help the Mum’s and Children being supported through the Creating Hope Foundation. It became my happy place and I honestly feel that I received a lot more than what I gave as a volunteer. I have met many amazing people with incredible stories and even more incredible hearts. It has shown me that with the support of a community we can overcome hardships and challenges and go on to thrive in life. My fondest memories are the simplest ones, some nights I would stay a little later and play board games with the children. There was just an abundance of love that you could feel no matter how busy everyone would be with all that was going on. I am so grateful for all the people I have met and the friendships I have formed from being part of the Moira Kelly Creating Hope Foundation. When I applied for my visa, Moira wrote me a letter of support which helped me with my application. If there was ever anything I needed help with and they could help, they would. One time, the gang all came down to cheer me on and watch me play wheelchair AFL. I could fill pages with all the ways that everyone has supported me and made a difference in my life.
Recently, I relocated from Melbourne to Gold Coast and while I am not able to visit and volunteer weekly, I wanted to find another way I could give back. This is what has inspired my decision to organise a sponsored hike. The money raised from the hike will go directly to The Moira Kelly Creating Hope Foundation which supports mums and children in need. I have seen first-hand the difference the charity is making to people’s lives and I hope to do my part to make sure that the amazing work can continue. I will be hiking the Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk which is 54km and I will be starting on the 11th of June and finishing on the 13th. I am both nervous and excited, I love being in nature and this will be my first multi-day hike. I plan on getting a GoPro so I can document the process and share how it all goes with everyone. This is also an opportunity for me to once again push myself out of my comfort zone and give back to a cause very close to my heart. Finger cross “The Jerk” is on its best behaviour throughout the hike!
Click the link below to donate, all donations are greatly appreciated!
To find out more about the amazing work being done through the Moira Kelly Creating Hope Foundation check out the link below: