This Spring we are going to show New Zealand that people who are blind or have low vision can live a life without limits and achieve extraordinary things.
7 Blind Foundation clients will complete an epic 700km journey across the North Island in 7 gruelling days. This is a boundary breaking challenge with no winner and no clock to race against – just the satisfaction of living a life without limits, and all the tales that go with it.
The 7 Day Challenge is an exciting, demanding and fun, multisport challenge which will see participants biking the 100km flyer, running a marathon, canoeing the Wanganui River, sailing off the coast of Tauranga and hiking up Mount Tongariro and more. It will test the boundaries of both brain and body and to prove that blindness or low vision is not a limit to how you live your life.
Meet the Team
Shannon Cleave – 37 – Paeroa
Shannon grew up alongside her twin sister in the home of L&P, Paeroa. Going through the social hierarchy that is high school was challenging to say the least for Shannon and her sister who came up against daily bullying and ridicule. Being the older twin by a staggering 13 seconds meant Shan’s protective instincts kicked in from an early age. It was in her first year of high-school when she decided that “kids just being kids” wasn’t enough of an excuse anymore. She decided to take a stand and educate the student body on how to treat a person they perceive as different. And she has never looked back, Shan prides herself on her outspoken character and her ‘just say yes’ attitude. She believes everyone has a choice in life and she chooses to live her life to the fullest. The 7 Day Challenge came to Shan at a time when she was searching for a goal to strive for. It has given her the motivation to get active every day and not let anything slow her down. Shannon knows it’s going to be challenging but as she put it “I’m not going to pull the ‘blind card’ on this one”.
Ben Geddes – 30 – Tauranga
Born and raised in the town with no traffic lights, Tokoroa, Waikato’s 5th largest town, Ben Geddes had what most would describe as a pretty Kiwi upbringing; fish and chips on the beach, family camping trips and ample time spent outdoors. A teenager who always struggled with the rigid constructs of the classroom, Ben is happiest when out in the elements. Scout trips, Blind Foundation camps and mountain hikes satisfied Ben’s longing for adventure throughout his youth. But a passion only discovered in recent years has given Ben the adrenaline rush and racing heart he has been longing for his whole life. 7 years ago Ben would never have thought of himself as a salty sea dog, but now, being an internationally recognised sailor, he couldn’t imagine life without a bit of sea salt. With a healthy list of accolades to back his success, Ben feels sailing has given him direction in life and a true sense of confidence in his abilities. Ben sees The 7 Day Challenge as another opportunity to prove to the world that perceived barriers shouldn’t stop you achieving amazing things, with a little perseverance, adventurous spirit and the right wind in your sails you can achieve anything.
Hamish Tahana – 24 – Napier
Hamish Tahana has already achieved so much in his 24 years on Earth. Growing up in Wanganui he was always outside, playing with his brother, neighbours and family dogs, Hamish was always active. And little has changed; his love for activity and sports has carried right through to his adult years and has not only kept Hamish motivated, healthy and happy but has also earned him a long list of impressive accolades. His sporting prowess has given Hamish the opportunity to travel the world doing what he loves. For the past 10 years he has travelled abroad to compete in Goalball championships where his team has had success in the Asia Oceania competition and the Australian nationals. More recently Hamish has found success in the world of Powerlifting, earning himself two New Zealand records for bench-press and deadlift. He hopes to share his passion for sports and adventures with fellow members of the blindness community and encourage them too to live a life without limits.
Neelusha Memon – 32 – Wellington
Neelu’s Dunedin upbringing took a terrifying turn when she was admitted to hospital with what was thought to be a bad flu, but was in fact a damaging brain injury. She was in a coma for four months, which resulted in the loss of 70% of her vision. Months of rehabilitation subdued Neelu’s adventurous spirit and confidence and it took her many years to get back to the bold person she once was. Her insatiable taste for the outdoors was reignited in 2010 when she was encouraged to climb Mt Aspiring in Wanaka, and realised in the process that she could do anything. She has never looked back. Neelu has now competed in World Paracycling, been the first blind woman to complete the Coast to Coast and now has her sights set on climbing the Seven Summits of the world. Neelu is without a doubt an intrepid athlete who has already achieved so much in her short life. The 7 Day Challenge has got Neelu excited about the opportunities ahead, specifically the group dynamic and achieving as a team. She hopes to prove once again that people with disabilities can achieve amazing things, if they’ve got the right attitude.
Peter Jones – 49 – Wellington
Peter Jones grew up in Tokoroa, finding pleasure in adventure and adrenaline as many boisterous young Kiwi boys did. Peter saw his home life as full of chores, so naturally he sought enjoyment with his friends, away from home. Despite his eye condition Peter has never let anything stop him doing what he loves. He worked on and managed dairy farms for 14 years, and his spare time was spent riding motorbikes at dangerous speeds, earning him the speedster reputation he still holds dear. Although his deteriorating sight meant Peter has more recently traded the motorbike for a tandem bicycle, he still gets a similar adrenaline rush from the new adventures he is undertaking. In the past few years, Peter has participated in several Blind Foundation run events including Outward Bound, Tasman Sea Kayaking and the Taupo running relay. The 7 Day Challenge has Peter excited about meeting other like-minded thrill seekers and he hopes to inspire more of the blind community to get outdoors and try new things.
Petronella Spicer – 59 – Christchurch
Petronella always has and always will call Christchurch home. She grew up there as the oldest of three children and loved the city so much she raised her own family there. Petronella’s sight loss in recent years hasn’t stopped her getting out there and enjoying the beauty of Christchurch. Petronella is still able to visualise some of what she and her guide dog Fletcher pass on their journeys across the city. Thanks mostly to the familiarity of her home town. Petronella remains the outdoorsy type she always has been. Her go-getter attitude means she is always a regular attendee on Blind Foundation run tramps and walks. She looks at life with an infectious optimism. This is something that she shares with the world through the Volunteer services co-ordination work she does at the Blind Foundation. This positive approach to life earned her a 2014 nomination for the Attitude Making a Difference Award, something she is incredibly proud of. The 7 Day Challenge has got Petronella really excited about the challenges ahead and the chance to show the world what she’s made of.
Johanne Frogatt – 51 – Christchurch
Johanne Frogatt grew up as the only female in her house in the garden city of Christchurch. She describes herself as tough, and attributes this strength to her two older brothers who taught her from a young age to always be independent and that molly-coddling was forbidden in their home. In retrospect, Jo is thankful for this tough upbringing as she believes it has stood her in good stead for the challenges she has faced in her adult life. As her sight has deteriorated, Jo’s passion for educating people about sight loss has grown. She sees the 7 Day Challenge as a brilliant opportunity to show the world that people who are blind or have low vision can do anything. Jo feels a positive attitude and a healthy sense of humour is integral to a happy life, something she has always reminded herself of when raising her family. Jo feels confident that this optimism will get her through the 7 Day Challenge.