Christmas spuds pay for new mobility scooter

Helen Ratapu rides on her new mobility scooter with BelfastKaiapoi Rotay President Peter Prattley. Picture Martin Hunter

For fifteen years Helen Ratapu has struggled with back pain and arthritis, which has stopped her from taking her grandchildren swimming and to the park.

But now the 65-year-old from Redwood can to all she ever wanted to- thanks to potatoes.

Mrs Ratapu has been trying to get funding for a mobility scooter for the last eight months, but help finally came from the Belfast Kaiapoi Rotary Club.

The rotary club holds an annual fundraiser of growing and selling new potatoes at Christmas, and those funds paid for Mrs Ratapu’s mobility scooter, which cost $3200.

The potato fundraiser has been running for about eight years and has previously paid for things like Chromebooks for Northcote School, funding for before school breakfast programmes, and transport to mid-week school sports.

Mrs Ratapu’s husband has taken the grandchildren to swimming, and to the Margaret Mahy park on their bikes, and Mrs Ratapu is looking forward to doing things like that with her new mobility scooter if it will go that far.

Mrs Ratapu couldn’t decide what she was most looking forward to, but being out with the grandchildren in Summer is an exciting prospect.

“There’s nothing in particular I want to do- just lots of things in general,” she said.

Mr and Mrs Ratapu have been the caregivers of their granddaughters, Jodi,9, and Zoe,11, for the last five years, and Mrs Ratapu is pleased that she will be able to spend more time with them.

The combination of osteoporosis and degenerative arthritis have led to multiple bone fractures for Mrs Ratapu, and make moving around painful and dangerous.

Since having the scooter, Mrs Ratapu has enjoyed getting out with her granddaughters on outings, and she is looking forward to warmer weather to do different activities.

Mrs Ratapu is grateful to the rotary club, which has also donated a shed to store the scooter in.

“This will change my life,” she said.

Said Peter Prattley, president of the Belfast Kaiapoi Rotary Club: “Our club is committed to helping those who need a bit of a hand up,”

“All those who helped grow, harvest and sell the potatoes along with our valued customers who regularly buy them can be pleased to see the funds making a real difference to someone’s life,” he said.

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