Titans forward Ryan James with inspirational young fan Harrison Wheatley.

Titan inspired by young fan's courage

Ever since a chance meeting with 13-year-old Harrison Wheatley, the bumps and bruises Ryan James is subjected to on a weekly basis don't have the same sting that they used to.

Being subjected to gruelling back-to-back training sessions at the Titans seems to pass by much quicker and hurts much less.

Because no matter what James puts his body through in search of sporting glory, he knows nothing compares to the courage of young Harrison who has set himself a task so enormous it almost defies the realms of possibility.

Suffering from a congenital cervical spine disorder that has confined him to a wheelchair from a young age, Harrison is in training to walk the last kilometre of the five kilometre City 2 South fun run in Brisbane on June 14.

Harrison's Aunty Tracy will push him in his wheelchair for the first four kilometres at which point the boy who struggles to walk more than 10 metres unassisted will step out of his chair and achieve something truly remarkable.

He is not doing this to raise money for his own treatment but to attract funds and attention to the Starlight Foundation who have helped to make his numerous hospital stays just a little more bearable.

It's the second year in a row that Harrison has pushed his body beyond what it would ordinarily be capable of having last year raised more than $8,000 for the Make A Wish Foundation, the most money raised by an individual or group. 

"They were a source of entertainment and distracted me from the reason I was in hospital," Harrison says on his fundraising page raising money for The Starlight Foundation.

"I was born with a cervical spine abnormality and have been in and out of hospital so many times. Thanks to Starlight for helping me get through."

Truth be told, if it wasn't for Harrison's wheelchair he may never have met James who has pledged to chop off his customary long hair in support of Harrison who has already had more than $1,200 pledged after initially aiming to raise $500.

Following the victory over Penrith in Round 7, James was asked to pose for a photo with Harrison, although this was a photo with a difference. With Harrison high in the grandstand and James down on the field, Harrison's mum Julie took a photo with Harrison in the foreground and James and Titans' teammate Kane Elgey in the distance.

Then, in a wonderfully spontaneous gesture, James jumped the fence and walked up to where Harrison was sitting to present him his boots from the game and also get a proper photo together.

The family just watched the Titans smash the Panthers.Ryan James jumped the fence after the game and shook Harry's hand, thanked him for coming and gave him his bootsThat's how footy should be.

Posted by Julie Wheatley on Saturday, April 18, 2015

 

"It was just humbling. He was really excited to meet us and just hearing about his story and what he wants to do to raise money for the Starlight Foundation really touched me so I thought it would be a good idea to help raise some money for him," said James, who will marry long-time partner Ana in July before the couple welcome their first child later this year.

The Titans have had a close association with The Starlight Foundation for a number of years and James said that it wasn't until after the photo of he and Harrison had been posted on social media sites that he became aware of his story and what he is trying to achieve. 

"It was just after the game when some of The Legion tagged us in some of the photos and I realised what he wanted to do from reading some of their Facebook posts," said James.

"For him to not really be able to walk, to want to walk the last kilometre is really inspiring.

"He's a really tough kid and for someone like that to do that just helps me be happy where I am at the moment.

"I was looking to cut my hair shorter for the wedding and maybe get a charity involved to raise awareness and much-needed money but maybe it was meant to be meeting Harry.

"If people are happy to donate money to his fund if I cut my hair short for the second half of the season, then that would be great."

To support Harrison in raising money for The Starlight Foundation please visit his Everyday Hero page and donate.