$70,000 raised to help player
Nearly $70,000 has been raised for injured Awatapu College rugby player Nat Manville.
More than 300 people attended a fundraising dinner for Manville, 18, this week, with All Blacks greats among the crowd.
Manville fractured his fifth cervical vertebra in his neck during a ruck while playing for the school's first XV in May and is expected to stay in a specialty spinal unit at Burwood Hospital in Christchurch until December.
His family has been closely monitoring his recovery and his mother, Brenda, is now living in Christchurch to be near her son.
Brenda and Darrell, Manville's father, as well as his siblings Jess and Michael, uncle Aaron and other family members, were at the fundraising event at the Palmerston North Convention Centre on Wednesday night.
Brenda Manville said yesterday her son's positive outlook and optimism was infectious and the family had drawn inspiration from him.
The Manvilles have lived around the central or lower North Island over the years, including Taranaki, Manawatu and Horowhenua, and the number of friends who had contacted them offering support had been overwhelming, she said.
The money raised from the dinner and auction, organised by the Manawatu Rugby Union and the New Zealand Rugby Foundation, will go into a trust under Manville's name.
"He's got a lifetime situation here and he's going to need some supp- ort during the years and hopefully this will help," Manawatu Rugby Union chief executive John Knowles said.
"We come from a wonderful community here in Palmerston North and people do rally in these circumstances and it just sort of shows what kind of community we have."
Knowles said an unexpected surprise on the night was an auction winner anonymously gifting their prize, a weekend away, to Manville's parents - a gesture that left the couple speechless, Brenda Manville said.
Several rugby identities were at the fundraiser, including coaches Dave Rennie and Wayne Smith, former All Blacks Andy Leslie and Colin Meads, TV commentator Keith Quinn and Hurricanes Brad Shields and John Schwalger.
Manville's rehabilitation programme includes physiotherapy, occupational therapy, gym sessions and speech-language work.
His recovery was coming along, with the family celebrating each step as it came, Aaron Manville said.
He was spending up to seven hours a day sitting upright, a sign of progress, and had been able to leave the hospital's grounds in a powered chair.