Club Cares Recipient – Irwin Vale – $10,000

How time flies! Back in 2009 I had recently been discharged out of rehab after becoming an incomplete quadriplegic while working as a pilot in Fiji. While I had improved amazingly during my long stay in rehab, progressing from having absolutely no movement and with difficulty breathing, to walking slowly on a walking frame, the future was looking very insecure. Will I continue to recover? What could I do to recover and how could I afford to? Will I ever be able to work again? Without a qualification that could make a wheelchair-friendly job possible, and without any formal compensation or ongoing publically-funded rehab to depend on, there were question marks everywhere. Not to mention the emotional battles my family and I continued to face daily.

On 11 th of November 2009 after being in touch with Club Cares for a while, we received a delightful email informing us that Club Cares would donate $10,000 for the purchase of equipment and or services to contribute to my recovery! After researching the best solutions, I decided to diversify this investment, using part of it to purchase exercise equipment that I could use at home with help from family and carers, part of it on a cutting-edge orthopaedic device to fix my “foot-drop”, with the rest being put towards my first stint at a private spinal cord injury recovery centre called “Walk On”.

Going down memory lane while writing this update, it is crystal-clear that Club Cares’ generous donation was the foundation of my continued recovery, but was so much more than that too. To this day, I still use the equipment to build strength, balance and gain neural recovery, while the orthopaedic device improved my gait pattern immensely. My month at Walk On back in 2010 was brilliant and has spurred on five other similar trips over the years. Together, these elements have brought me to where I am now. I can walk on crutches and sometimes only use a walking stick, I can drive a car with very little modifications, and most importantly, I have done quite a bit of work experience this year and will graduate in two weeks with a Masters in Aviation Management.

I’m really not sure if any of this would have eventuated without Club Cares because the donation was a true example of the merits in “teaching a man to fish in order to feed him for a lifetime”. I have not only physically improved and continue to do so which has made my life easier and more comfortable, but this improvement gave me confidence to dare to dream about working again and returning to study, and ultimately living the life I want to live. In the thank-you speech I made at the club conference in 2010, I mentioned that I want to repay the money one day and I stick by this especially now that I look to take the next steps of finding a job and starting my property portfolio (yes, I haven’t forgotten about all that either!). I plan to repay the donation not because I think it is expected, but because it will be symbolic of how charity can really change lives and come full-circle. Club Cares, I am truly forever grateful and I can’t wait to be in touch in the years to come!


Irwin Val