Rugby stars raise over $200,000 for spinal cord injury research and rehabilitation

What an amazing night we had on Friday! Our top scientists joined sports stars from all over New Zealand to raise money for spinal cord injury.

From L-R: Communications Manager Laura Fogg, SCIRU leader Professor Louise Nicholson, All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, and Brain Bee organiser Johanna Beattie

Hosted by The Black Friday Trust at the Langham Hotel, the event was called “Believe”, and more than lived up to its name as guests gave, and kept on giving, to three recipient charities: CatWalk (research), The Spinal Trust (rehabilitation) and the New Zealand Rugby Foundation (prevention and support).

Around $200,000 was raised for two important causes; upgrading the Auckland Rehabilitation Unit and supporting the newly-established Spinal Cord Injury Research Unit (SCIRU) based here at the Centre for Brain Research. SCIRU is led by Professor Louise Nicholson, who was there at the dinner, and forms part of the Integrative Neuroscience Facilities led by Associate Professor Bronwen Connor. The unit was established by the Catwalk Trust with the aim of finding a cure for spinal cord injury (SCI).

We were privileged to be part of the evening, and just a little overwhelmed by the star power of the number of All Blacks and Blacks Caps who also shared the dream. The players held nothing back in their efforts to raise funds. Ali Williams may be known as one of the ‘jokers’ of the All Black squad but had many in the crowd close to tears as he shared the emotional story of his father’s own experience with SCI and the impact a devastating injury can have on a family.

Catwalk’s equestrian founder Catriona Williams appeared on TV3’s Campbell Live alongside Conrad Smith in a special cross during the show, and research at the CBR was also profiled in the New Zealand Herald as well.

The star turn of the night came when the lights dimmed and MC Jackie Clarke announced a special guest making his musical debut. It was none other than All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, striding out of the mist, clad in full Scottish regalia amid a skirl of bagpipes! His pitch perfect rendition of Amazing Grace was indeed amazing and as the crowd sang along with him, we were reminded that working together can indeed improve lives!