Jessica Collins always felt at home in the ocean, so she never expected it to change her life so cruelly.
The former Australian surf life saving representative fractured the C5 vertebra in her neck while surfing with friends at Snapper Rocks in 2018.
She’s now a tetraplegic, and has experienced a long road of rehabilitation, with her family, friends and the community right by her side.
Fundraisers and GoFundMe pages have helped contribute to her treatment costs, the expenses of modifying her family home, even finding a suitable car.
But COVID-19 means no fundraising initiatives have been held this year – until now.
Enter athleisure designer and Novocastrian Bec Boyle.
She’s offered her time and fashion prowess to collaborate with The Jessica Collins Necessitous Circumstances Fund to design masks, which will be sold to raise funds for Jessica.
“I started selling masks in August on my website and Rod Harrison, who is the chairman of Jess’ charity, contacted me and said what I had done looked really great and could we get together and collaborate,” Boyle said.
From there, a partnership was born, with Jess heavily involved in the design process.
“There’s two prints, one plain black with sunflowers and the other print is quite vibrant in colour so to me it was important to have multiple prints to increase people’s buying expenditure to help the charity,” Boyle said.
“I love the designs, both of them, but I like the plain with the sunflowers, that’s my favourite one just because I’m obsessed with sunflowers, so I like them to stand out on the black,” Collins added.
The masks are designed in Newcastle and manufactured in Sydney.
After Pharmacist David Went heard about the cause, he jumped on board to stock them at Terry White Chemmart at Junction Fair.
“Jess and her family approached us to look after her medication while she was undergoing therapy and obviously we jumped on board with that without any hesitation,” he said.
“Any chance we get [we] help Jess and the family out through fundraising – we are all for looking after local people and Jess is local, so that’s why we jumped on board.”
The charity will also hold a pop-up shop in Charlestown Square, and is on the look out for other outlets to get on board.
The masks will cost $20 each, with all proceeds going directly towards Jess’ expenses.
“The car is definitely number one on the list, they’re so expensive to buy, you need to buy a brand new vehicle for it then to be modified which is setting you back about $200,000,” Collins said.
“We also need a pool hoist to get into the pool in our backyard for ongoing therapy.”
The Australian Surf Life Saving Association has been a big supporter of Jess and, this summer, has mandated that all patrol members must wear masks.
It’s hoped that will provide a sales rush.
“Surf life saving has been very good to Jess since her accident, it’s had her for the state and Australian championships as a commentator and was very supportive in that way, and will be very supportive in this,” Harrison said.
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