Homegrown initiative changing lives

The Waterboy founder Thomas Nabbs; inline hockey player Lillian-Rose Ritchie; Ocean Stephens and Craig Armstrong were in town accompanied by JJ the guide dog to thank local sponsors of the Waterboy.

Cambridge businesses have gotten behind a local organisation that aims to get Kiwis into sport.

Thomas Nabbs, founder of the Waterboy, grew up in Cambridge and started his fledgling charity work here.  With a strong belief that every Kiwi should have the opportunity to participate in sport, Thomas has made it his mission to ensure that lack of money doesn’t stop people getting involved.  Sport is part of New Zealand society, building skills, wellbeing and pride, Thomas said, adding that “a lot of people don’t have access, and it breaks my heart because it’s part of being a Kiwi.”   It was from this belief in the value of sport that the Waterboy was born.

The initiative had its first sponsored outing in 2016, when they partnered with Cambridge businesses to get kids at Leamington School the subscriptions and uniforms they needed to play rugby and netball. Five Stags was the major sponsor of that initiative, and has continued to support the Waterboy.  Shaw’s Wire Ropes, Powdercoating NZ and the Stihl Shop have also jumped on board. But his biggest supporter has always been his dad, local lawyer Brian Nabbs, Thomas said.  “He has put more thank you could imagine into it, but he takes no credit,” he added.

On Friday, Thomas brought some of the latest recipients out to Cambridge so they could meet their sponsors. Hamilton couple Craig Armstrong and Ocean Stephens are two of the 25 people on the charity’s books at the moment.  The blind duo will be competing in the Hamilton Half Marathon next week, and have been receiving sponsorship from Powdercoating NZ to allow them to go to the gym for their training. Craig said being able to go to the gym had been invaluable in their lead up to the race. Also out for a visit was 11-year old girl Lillian-Rose Ritchie, the oldest of six children at home with a solo mum. A local couple is supporting Lillian-Rose, allowing her to join inline hockey club the Hamilton Devils. “I love inline hockey, and now I have the chance to do it,” she said.

Since its inception, the Waterboy has grown from strength to strength, moving to Hamilton at the start of the year.  “Because that’s where the greater need was,” Thomas said.

Thomas has also been speaking at high schools to try and combat homophobia in sport, joined by rower Robbie Mansen and rugby player Tawera Kerr-Barlow.  “Being a teenager is hard enough,” he pointed out, “without having one of the known perfect remedies for stress (sport) and be excluded from it.”  The organisation is currently raising funds to carry out more of these talks, reassuring students who do not identify as straight that sexuality is not a reason to do sport. It also aims to let straight students know that using derogatory terms can deeply affect people and put them off accepting themselves and participating in sport.

And from there? “Nationwide”, Thomas said with a grin.

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