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Residents rally to raise funds for Thomas

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When a group of cyclists from Hong Kong tackle the Lake Taupo Challenge in New Zealand, they will be racing for a very special reason.

Led by Discovery Bay resident Scott Fitzgerald, the team will be raising money to help DB youngster Thomas Smits.

The Discovery Bay International School student has grade 5 cerebral palsy after suffering severe brain damage at birth. He uses a wheelchair and an eye-operated device to communicate.

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Thomas’ father, Rick, is part of the cycling team and team leader Scott approached the Smits family and suggested using the event to raise money for new equipment that Thomas could use.

It was from there that Taupo 4 Thomas was born.

After consultation with the Smits, three pieces of equipment were identified that would be particularly helpful.

Thomas, or Tom as he likes to be called, has then nominated his preference – a new technology called PC Eye Go, a small eye gaze tracking device that can attach to a windows computer, laptop or tablet, allowing Tom to operate it with his eyes.

Tom currently uses an eye gaze communication device which allows him to use the internet, type and spell with his eyes. The PC Eye Go would allow him to undertake a broader range of tasks and activities.

A fundraising page has been set up at www.gofundme.com/taupo4thomas with a $20,000 donation target.

Riders are setting personal goal times with an associated sponsorship level and then training towards reaching this goal. While riders will sponsor themselves, they are looking for as much support from family and friends.

Thomas’ mother, Merridy, said the family had lived in DB for 17 years. Rick is a Cathay Pacific pilot and Merridy runs Wise Owl tutoring.

Tom is one of four children – his twin sister Sophie is also at DBIS, while his older siblings Riley, 12, and Sarah, 15, are at Discovery College.

Merridy said she was overwhelmed by the support from the community – with Db-ers past and present already contributing to the fundraising.

The Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge takes place on November 28.

* The team will be holding a special fundraising 200km bike ride around Discovery Bay this Sunday. Scott said the ride is starting at 5am and is aimed to be finished by 1pm at Figos. He will finish the ride by climbing the Golf Course hill after 197km riding. Show your support at https://www.gofundme.com/taupo4thomas

Photograph courtesy Merridy Smits

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