Brayden rolls on towards Paralympics hoop dream
HOOP DREAMS AND DARING TO CHASE THE GREEN AND GOLD ENSURES BRAYDEN FOXLEY-CONNOLLY’S CAPACITY CONTINUES TO GROW.
Working his way through the ranks in wheelchair basketball, Mackay teenager and Feros Care participant, Brayden, has set his sights on Paralympic glory, with Australia’s famed national outfit, the Rollers.
Already suiting up for his country abroad in junior ranks, Brayden’s mother Amanda said her son’s dream is one he plans on making a reality.
“He made the Australian under-23 side and went to Japan last November, and now he’s got a chance to get into the Rollers,” Amanda said.
“He wants to play at the 2028 Paralympics, but he’s actually aiming to play in 2024 as well… he has that dream and he pushes himself to achieve it.”
BRAYDEN’S ACHIEVEMENTS SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES
The Paralympic dream is a big step for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participant, who continues to make giant strides both on and off the court.
Now 15, even being on the periphery of national selection is a huge achievement for Brayden, whose life changed forever as a toddler, when he contracted meningococcal meningitis.
“He was 22 months of age and he went to day care and nothing was wrong with him,” Amanda said.
“We got a call at 2pm asking for us to pick him up as he had a fever. By 7pm we knew something was drastically wrong, so we took him to hospital and within 15 hours of that, he clinically died, but survived.
“The next morning, the Flying Doctors flew us down to Brisbane, and for three months, we never left the hospital.”
After weeks in the intensive care unit, it was at the two-month period doctors made the call to operate, with a left through knee, partial right foot, right hand, and partial left-hand amputations.
Also left with an acquired brain injury affecting Brayden’s learning capacity, Amanda said he navigated bullying at school, sub-standard prosthetic support and hopping from one end of the house to the other to get around, to get to the point he is now.
Crediting sport as Brayden’s “saving grace”, Amanda said the camaraderie and inclusion of team competition on the court in Mackay really turned things around.
“When he was 10, he did track and field at school and made the Queensland school side to compete in discus in Tasmania,” Amanda said.
“But he didn’t want to do it anymore as he loves the passion of team sport, which ended up being his saving grace when his feeling of wellbeing was really shot to pieces.
“But he went to the PCYC and the coach of Mackay’s wheelchair basketball club, the Sporting Wheelies, saw Brayden and tracked him down.
“The first time he went, he only wanted to watch from afar, then the next week he got a bit closer, then by the third week he was in a chair and from there he never looked back.”
Already training at the Australian Institute of Sport, Brayden has built an impressive sporting resume which includes a win at the Northern Challenge Finals in 2019, a Sporting Wheelies Junior Athlete of the year award in Brisbane, a bronze medal at the Junior Nationals, an A grade All-Star Five most improved player award and qualification for the first wheelchair basketball National League.
To top it off, Brayden was awarded a sponsorship by Variety Bash/Blenners Transport for up to $5000 per year for three years to assist him with the costs of attending and participating for the under-23 state team.
With Brayden finding his place in wheelchair basketball, Amanda said he had been able to increase his capacity through NDIS funding, helping him secure his own sporting wheelchair.
“There was a time where he was borrowing a sporting wheelchair to participate in his wheelchair basketball from another participant, and he was unable to play in some games and was restricted to training days only due to not having his own,” Amanda said.
“But once he received his sporting wheelchair, things just took off for him. When he was young, he often withdrew from social interaction due to feelings of being different to his peers, but now, he’s increased his social inclusion through developing friendships and community engagement all over Australia.”
HOW THE NDIS IS HELPING TO CHANGE LIVES
Despite an up and down 2020 where Brayden’s hoop dreams have been on hold temporarily in the current climate, training and competition is expected to resume for him later this year.
With Brayden’s NDIS funding also helping him build his capacity through access to a manual wheelchair, prosthetic legs, specialised kitchen equipment, physiotherapy and exercise physiotherapy, and a support worker, he’s thriving off the court as much as he is on it.
“With the specialised kitchen equipment Brayden’s favourite thing is his tip kettle,” Amanda said.
“He can now cook his own noodles and it’s given him a sense of achievement at home. He’s also been able to obtain prosthetics and some attachments for his prosthetics to assist him in the gym where he was previously supported by a support worker and exercise physiologist.
“Now he’s signed up to a gym for a new program and we’re looking to find him a new support worker to exercise with him to make sure he’s doing it the right way.
“He is feeling more and more included, independent and comfortable in new settings with his equipment.”
Praising the NDIS and Feros Care Local Area Coordinator (LAC) Nikita Toto for helping to make everything possible, Amanda said Brayden had been given the chance to achieve his goals.
“The NDIS has been a life changer, and he wouldn’t be where he is if there was no NDIS,” Amanda said.
“Nikita has been excellent, and she always checks in to make sure we’re all OK, and we really appreciate that.”