Campaign for local war veteran presses on

A Nanaimo student’s bid to help a local war veteran injured in Afghanistan didn’t win the money needed through a nationwide competition, but she hasn’t given up.

Rebecca Lumley, a Grade 12 student at Wellington Secondary School, wants to buy state-of-the-art technology to help Capt. Trevor Greene work toward his goal of walking again.

Greene was wounded while serving in Afghanistan. On March 4, 2006, he was talking with a group of elders in a village, his helmet and weapon aside, when a young man snuck up behind him and drove an axe into his skull.

The axe cleaved into the area of his brain that controls basic motor functions. His ongoing recovery has defied the odds and inspired others.

The “exoskeleton” from California-based Ekso Bionics – a portable system of braces, motors and an onboard computer designed to allow wheelchair-bound patients to walk – costs $140,000 plus $10,000 per year to maintain.

In the fall, with the help of teacher John Mandziuk and her peers, Lumley entered the Aviva Community Fund competition, a contest that helps pay for projects creating positive change in communities. Last month, the project became one of 30 finalists, which meant it automatically received $5,000.

While Lumley is disappointed her idea wasn’t among the 11 grand prize winners announced Tuesday – Aviva Canada Inc. was giving away $1 million for community projects up to $150,000 this year – she plans to continue raising money for “as long as it takes for me to walk with Trevor.”

“We got $5,000 out of it, so it’s not like we’re coming out of this empty-handed,” she said. “It’s still moving forward. We’re still going to make it happen. This is kind of beyond bake sales, but if that’s what it takes, we’ll do it.”

Lumley plans to look into other grants and the Royal Canadian Legion is also supporting the campaign.

Andrew Farrow, president of Branch 10 legion in Harewood, said the legion’s B.C./Yukon arm is collecting donations through its foundation so that Wellington students and staff do not have to set up their own charitable foundation.

His own branch is looking into hosting at least one fundraiser, he added.

“I think it’s our duty as the legion to step in and assist,” said Farrow.

Lumley plans to use the $5,000 to send Greene to California to try out the technology.

She said Greene’s story has resonated with many and people from all across Canada have commented on the project’s Facebook page.

“I definitely learned the value of social media and the impact one good idea can have,” said Lumley.

Mandziuk said the Aviva contest really brought Greene’s story to the forefront of people’s minds.

“We’re hoping we can turn this into a major win in the end,” he said. “It’s got people on board with the cause and we’re not going to give up.”

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