'This town is special': Sport Awards fireys support humbling
FORMER Grafton Paralympian Rodney Nugent wanted to repay the Rural Fire Service for their work both at his current home at Lake Cathie and here in Grafton by giving up two of his most prized possessions.
The guest speaker at the Daily Examiner Clarence Valley Sports Awards, put his national team jacket from Barcelona, and a custom-made jacket from the Seoul games.
The 51-year-old won gold in long jump, triple jump, 4 x 100 m relay and 4 x 400m relay at the 1988 Seoul Paralympics and gold in the 4 x 100m relay at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics
"I didn't get to realise my goals and dreams without community support, so this is me trying to help repay those who do so much for us," he said.
"Whether it's in Lake Cathie, Port Macquarie or even here in Grafton, I feel that maybe I can raise a few hundred dollars to go towards helping those fireys and help give back to the community again."
They raised more than a few hundred, with his Seoul jacket fetching more than 400, bought by the family of local athlete with a disability Mitch Christiansen.
His pride and joy, the Barcelona jacket which he wore on the dais in his last ever competitive race, raised more than $800, sold to Darran and Jodie Forbes of Forbes Smash Repairs.
"My parents don't want me to do this," he said. "But it's for a good cause."
It didn't end there though, with childhood memories and a bit of community spirit leading Mr Forbes to donate the jacket back to Mr Nugent and his parents.
"I've known Rod since he was a young fella, and we used to get around together riding motorbikes," Mr Forbes said.
"It's good to get it back to mum and dad. They don't want to lose them, and it's all going to a good cause."
Mr Nugent said he felt humbled by the generosity not only of Mr Forbes, but the whole town.
"What he's done, I mean I was prepared to let it go, and I'm just blown away what this man has done," Mr Nugent said.
"He's put his hand in his pocket, the money is going to a great cause, and my parents aren't going to bash me up tonight.
"I haven't lived here for 30-odd years, and people still remember me, I still remember these mates that I havne' t seen for so many years, and they go out and do this.
"It's the beauty of Grafton."
The Christiansen family also tried to donate the other jacket back to Mr Nugent, but Mr Nugent insisted that it remain with the young runner.
"As much as I'd like to keep it, that kid is special," Mr Nugent said.
"He's got a long road ahead as an athlete with a disability. It's just a jacket, but I'm hoping that every time he looks at he keeps going, and hopefully inspire him."
The Grafton Ghosts team also donated their $500 prize for team of the year towards the RFS cause.