Christmas and Easter combined for teenager Clara Bates who has received a new wheelchair donated by a Wollongong engineering firm

Kanahooka teenager Clara Bates, 14, was all smiles at Easter following the generosity of a Wollongong business at Christmas.

Easter surprise: Clara Bates (centre) shows off her new wheelchair to PPM's Troy McDonald, Brodie Hodges, Belinda Dawson and Rod Todhunter. Picture: Greg Ellis.

Easter surprise: Clara Bates (centre) shows off her new wheelchair to PPM's Troy McDonald, Brodie Hodges, Belinda Dawson and Rod Todhunter. Picture: Greg Ellis.

When Troy McDonald and the Project Portfolio Management team heard how Clara was growing so fast she needed a new bigger easier to transport wheelchair they decided instead of handing out hams at Christmas they would give the money to help her mobility. “I was pretty proud,” he said.

PPM’s Brodie Hodges spoke to the Disability Trust’s Kids Fund manager Belinda Dawson who told her about Clara.

Then all the staff at the engineering consultancy jointly decided to donate $10,000 for the new wheelchair. “To see Clara in the wheelchair today is amazing,” Ms Hodges said.

Belinda, Clara and Troy

Belinda, Clara and Troy

Ms Dawson said Clara, who has Cerebal Palsy and can’t walk independently, is one of many children in the Illawarra living with a disability. And the generous donation would help improve her life. She said it was great to be involved in something where generous people showed such a wonderful community spirit and support for others.

In 2016 Clara was selected to compete for the Australia Junior Title in Boccia and the new wheelchair is transportable unlike the smaller one she previously used and had outgrown. Mum Julie Hicks said it was already making an enormous difference. “They are all tailor made, fitted and prescribed to the individual child. It means she can use accessible transport now which she couldn’t do before.”

Staff at PPM dug into their own wallets and donated $1300 of their own money while the company chipped in $8700. Many shed a few tears at a function where they watched a video featuring Clara and what the new wheelchair would mean. And they hoped she would visit the office and show off her new wheels when they arrived. Which she did on Thursday. She was all smiles and full of appreciation as she expressed a heartfelt thank you.

Kids Fund is an Illawarra charity managed by The Disability Trust that purchases aids and equipment for children with disabilities and ensures 100 per cent of donations go to where they are needed.

Since 1999 it has spent more than $1.2 million on 651 pieces of equipment for Illawarra children. Now Clara’s smaller wheelchair can be handed on to a younger child.

Mr McDonald said PPM was growing organically to now be one of the largest engineering service providers in the region and an exporter of Illawarra engineering capability to Western Australia and in Queensland where it has picked up more work in the resources sector and has just opened an new office in Townsville.

“We have got people in all parts of the country at the moment. A lot of the downsizing in both the resources and steel sector here is creating an opportunity for us to export that talent to Wester Australia, Queensland and Victoria. Some is residential and some is fly-in fly-out. We are also looking at doing some significant work in western NSW,” he said.

PPM is privately owned and wants to keep giving back to the community.The workforce is growing at the business which now employs 120 people including 80 in the Illawarra.

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