Christmas was an extra special time for Ashburton rower Tim Connelly-Whyte with the unwrapping of his very own single skiff courtesy of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Tim, who is 17 later this month, has had a tough time with his health in recent months, but is on the road to recovery and was grinning from ear to ear when he took his new boat out for a maiden row on Lake Hood.
After an accident in March 2020 he battled a severe bone infection and sepsis that very nearly cost him his leg and his life.
He received three PICC lines, nearly eight months of IV antibiotics and seven surgeries over a 14 month period.
Around 25cm of tibia was removed in an attempt to get on top of the infection.
Tim’s inner strength and positivity throughout the ordeal had blown the family away, his mum Amanda Connelly said.
“He has had to dig deep through a number of very trying times.
“His full story is book worthy, with a lot of learning still coming from it,” she said.
While he still had a long recovery ahead, his focus over the last 20 months had always been to get back with his mates in the Ashburton College rowing team.
With the support of his coaches, Justin Wall and Mary Hefford, he was slowly re-engaging and getting back on the water.
The new boat means so much to him, Amanda said.
“The gesture definitely brought a few tears. We thought it was such an enormous wish that we actually didn’t think it would happen.
“It is amazing that so many people from throughout New Zealand can come together to make these wishes come true and it makes an enormous difference and gives something so positive in Tim’s recovery.”
The sleek skiff weighs in at 14kg without rigging and its design and detailing is top class.
It was made and delivered by Laszlo Boats a couple of days after Christmas and co-ordinated through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
The gift includes rowing shoes courtesy of Ankaa Max and an old-school boat cover that once belonged to top rower Mahe Drysdale.
Rowing is in Tim’s blood. His great, great, great uncle Richard Arnst was a New Zealand world champion in the early 1900’s and older sister Fran was a quad sculls champion in an Ashburton College boat in 2016.
-By Mick Jensen