Damien throws his heart and soul into fundraising for children’s charities

Published On: 23 September 2022Categories: NDIS, News

Two separate freak accidents robbed Damien of his eyesight nearly 25 years ago, but the 52-year-old says gaining access to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) was what truly transformed his life.

“My wife and I did it all on our own until we were able to access the NDIS about four years ago, that’s nearly 20 years of very little financial or practical support,” Damien said.

“Now I’ve got support workers I’ve become more active and independent in the community. I also use supports to get back on the water, which I love, and I can go for a kayak for a few hours, have a coffee with some friends and then paddle back home.

“The NDIS has made life a lot easier, prior to this, all bills had to be done online or I’d have to wait for Melissa (his wife) to get home, it’s the same with food shopping. Now I can get it all done while Mel is at work.”

Damien, who lives on the Gold Coast, was 13 when he lost sight in his left eye doing what a lot of young boys did back then, make weapons to play with.

“I was mucking around in the garage during school holidays and hit myself with pliers. Then at 27 I was blinded in my right eye by an errant golf ball,” he said.

“After the second incident, I was initially in a rut for about a year. Stuff just happens and makes life interesting. It was difficult for myself and my wife, but you have to push through and keep going.”

Melissa said the first thing her husband said to her after doctors told him he would be blind for the rest of his life was if he couldn’t see his children’s faces, he didn’t want to have any.

“It was the first thing he said to me. But I managed to convince him, eventually,” she said.

The couple, who have been married for 27 years, worked together to raise two children. Melissa said from an early age their children learnt to cook and clean and helped to keep the household running.

Damien said he spent the first year after losing his sight in a “rut”, but then realised he had no choice but to live the life he’d be given.

“I know all about putting one foot in front of the other to keep going,” he said.

Since losing his sight, Damien has thrown his heart and soul into sports, fitness and competing in marathons, cycling races, athletics events and so much more. To ensure he’s at his peak, he trains between four and seven hours every day, getting up at 4am to start the day.

In 2019 he joined a push-up challenge and completed 100,000 a year, doing between 150-700 every day, just as another way to keep himself fit.

“After losing my sight I was getting bored and wanted to do something and so I got back into sports, years back I travelled to the US, Canada and Rio de Janeiro to play goalball with the Queensland and Australia teams,” he said.

“In athletics I won the Australian Championships for shot put, a record that stands to this day. But then I got into running and I never looked back.

“Soon I was venturing into road cycling and won Australian titles. While I love winning, it’s not why I do it, I’m only ever in competition with myself. If someone beats me it’s because they’ve trained harder or are fitter than me.

“I’ve been lucky to have support from my family and my wife who supported me to travel overseas and take on so many different challenges.”

A few months ago, Damien got back into playing golf again after a 25-year hiatus, saying it felt awesome to be back on the green once a week or have a support worker to take him to the driving range.

“But again, it’s been a learning curve, not being able to see where I am placing my club or where the ball is, it’s challenging but rewarding,” he said.

Damien’s biggest achievements to date, aside from becoming a father of two, is his incredible financial contribution to children’s charities.

Over the years Damien, with the support of Melissa and support workers, has been involved in dozens of fundraising events, using his exceptional level of fitness and grit strength to raise a substantial amount of money

“Since losing my sight I’ve kept very fit, often training for four hours at a time and taking part in ultramarathon and cycling events,” he said.

He’s even taken part in the Braveheart 777 Marathon, where runners take on the ultimate endurance challenge running seven marathons in seven consecutive days across seven states, all while raising money for the prevention and treatment of child sexual abuse.

In all seven marathons Damien finished in less than four hours, an extraordinary achievement for any athlete.

His latest fundraiser is for Make-A-Wish Australia where he’ll walk 12 hours straight on a 3.7km loop on the Gold Coast on September 24. He’ll start at 5am and finish at 5pm, looping around the iconic Harley Park in Labrador near Charis Seafood.

To support Damien’s endeavours, staff from Carers Queensland’s Local Area Coordination Partner in the Community Program will be walking, skating, biking, and running alongside him.

Damien said while he was getting older and his body was experiencing a few niggles, he has no plans to slow down anytime soon.

“Often the hardest part is getting out of bed, but once I’m up and out then I know I’ll feel so much better for it,” Damien said.

Carers Queensland can support you to find out more about the NDIS, to apply for funding and to help you get started with the NDIS.

If you have a disability but are not eligible for the NDIS, Carers Queensland can help you identify and link to options for support in your community.

You can also contact Carers Queensland on 1300 999 636, cq.enquiries@ndis.gov.au or sign up to our LAC Connect app here.