Sebastian's $22k school assembly surprise

Sebastian Lamas Montero will soon be zipping around the playground in a new motorised wheelchair thanks to the generosity of his school community and Illawarra charity KidzWish.

At an assembly at Fairy Meadow Demonstration School yesterday afternoon, Sebastian and his parents Monica and Jason Hughes were surprised with $22,000 to put towards the new wheelchair.

Sebastian was born with a rare degenerative neurological condition called axonal polyneuropathy.

The condition affects his ability to walk and has led to curvature of his spine.

He has been confined to a wheelchair for most of his life, relying on adults to push it.

The school had raised $2400 at a sausage sizzle and mufti day last week for Sebastian and another $400 for student Lachlan McFarland, who had been selected to represent the Illawarra on a basketball trip.

But with a motorised wheelchair costing upwards of $20,000, there was still a way to go. KidzWish pledged to provide the rest of the money, presenting Sebastian and his parents with a cheque for $22,000.

Principal John Thorne and KidzWish executive director Chris Beaven had worked hard to keep the surprise under wraps, but their stealthy operations meant Sebastian, who was home from school for the day with a cold, almost missed the assembly.

A little hint of what was to come from Mr Thorne sent the Hugheses racing home to get him there in time for the presentation.

The first surprise came when Lachlan offered to give the $400 the school had raised for his trip to Sebastian.

The next came when Mr Hughes spotted Mrs Beaven walking to the stage with a large piece of cardboard.

"When I saw her across the stage with the cheque, I knew something amazing was about to happen. It's an amazing feeling, we're all overwhelmed by the generosity," he said.

"For Sebastian it will mean he will be able to experience for the first time independence in his life. He never walked, and he's been confined to a wheelchair, so to have independence is going to be a huge thing for him. The quality of his life will be increased tenfold.

"For us it's just an incredible advantage that Sebastian has belonged to this school, belonged to this community."

Mrs Beaven told the assembly she knew how important a new wheelchair would be for Sebastian's quality of life and commended the school on its fund-raising efforts.

"From little things big things grow, and that's what you've done today."

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