Tauranga boy receives yacht to aid recovery

Te Mero Elder and Bay of Plenty Sailing Academy Trust chairman Roger Clark with the newly-gifted Starling yacht. Photo: supplied.

A Tauranga boy who sustained severe neck injuries in a diving accident has received a significant boost in his recovery journey.

Te Mero Elder, 12, has been presented with a Mackay-built Starling yacht, thanks to the generosity of Hillsdene Trust, offering a strong symbol of hope and continuity for his passion of sailing.

In February this year Te Mero was swimming at Waimapu Stream in Oropi with his 14-year-old brother, Stormy-Jaye, when he dived off a bank and hit the shallow bottom.

Stormy-Jaye saved Te Mero after realising he was not moving, grabbing him out of the water, and pulling him up onto a sandbank.

The accident left Te Mero with shattered bones in his neck, requiring intensive medical interventions including bone graft and spinal fusion surgeries.

The Tauranga Intermediate School student loves sports, including sailing – which he’d been doing every second weekend – as well as rugby and jiu-jitsu.

Last year Te Mero received a sailing scholarship through the Bay of Plenty Sailing Academy Trust to cover the cost of sailing.

This year he’d been looking forward to going to the South Island for a sailing competition at Easter.

Tommy Wilson, who had read about Te Mero’s accident, was contacted by the chair of Hillsdene Trust, who as a child also used to jump into the same river and wanted to help.

It wasn’t long before the community connecter linked him up with Tauranga Yacht & Power Boat Club, which directed him to the BOP Sailing Academy Trust.

“The Hillsdene Trust came to us and said: “We will buy a boat for Te Mero,” says BOPSAT chairman Roger Clark.

“We exist to make sailing attainable by young people who would not normally have that opportunity.

"We run a school sailing programme that introduces kids to sailing, and when appropriate we make a pathway for kids who love it and want to continue.

“Te Mero was one such kid and has been with us now for about two years.”

At a special ceremony at the club this month, Tommy, representing the Hillsdene Trust, presented the 12-year-old with the yacht, which is aptly named ‘Te Mero’.

“BOPSAT has become the steward of this very generous gift of a Starling class sailing dinghy,” says Roger.

“The Hillsdene Trust have put it into the BOP Sailing Academy for Te Mero’s use for as long as he needs it, then when he grows out of it the boat can be passed down to another young person who can best benefit from it.

“Te Mero is a young man of few words.

"I’ve been very impressed by his strength of character and everyone who has spent time with him is impressed by his lovely nature.

“It is with great pleasure we name the boat ‘Te Mero’.”

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