Project to help injured war veteran makes finals

NANAIMO – Student's proposal to help war veteran injured in Afghanistan is now a finalist in a nationwide competition.

A Nanaimo student’s proposal to help a local war veteran injured in Afghanistan is now a finalist in a nationwide competition that helps pay for projects creating positive change in communities.

Rebecca Lumley, a Grade 12 Wellington Secondary School student, along with teacher John Mandziuk and about 70 student council and marketing students, want to buy state-of-the-art technology to help Capt. Trevor Greene work toward his goal of walking again.

Students learned Monday that thanks to community support through more than 16,000 online votes, the idea is one of 30 finalists in the Aviva Community Fund competition.

The winners will be selected by a panel of judges and announced Jan. 29. While the school hopes to win the maximum amount of $150,000, which would pay for the equipment, being named a finalist means the idea will be given at least $5,000.

“Overall, the whole building is pretty excited about where the next step goes,” said Mandziuk. “In the long run, I think the biggest benefit is what we’re teaching these kids – that they can make a difference. Not just have ideas, but put them into effect.”

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 technology that Lumley wants to buy, from California-based Ekso Bionics, consists of a portable system of braces, motors and an onboard computer designed to allow wheelchair-bound patients to walk. It costs $140,000 plus $10,000 per year to maintain and is not yet available in Canada.

Mandziuk said the technology would be stored at the CBI Health Centre in Nanaimo and available to others in the community and in Greene’s case, it could help him re-learn to walk on his own.

Mandziuk said the Royal Canadian Legion is involved and even if the school does not win the $150,000, students plan to continue fundraising efforts.

“We’re already starting to make arrangements with the legions to do local fundraising,” said Mandziuk.

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