In November last year the Players’ Fund’s Marketing Manager, Tori Gardner visited recipient of the Fund Furlo Theron at his home in Abbotsdale near Malmesbury in the Western Cape. She was joined by Springbok Rugby World Cup winner and World Rugby’s men’s 15 Player of the Year 2019 – Pieter Steph du Toit, who ever since Furlo’s injury has never been more than a phone call away.
At the time of Furlo’s injury in July 2016, he was a multi-talented sportsman with a passion for most competitive ball games. He excelled on the cricket pitch representing Boland cricket at U11,13,16 and 19 age groups. He was also a very keen golfer taking any opportunity he could get to have a round with his friends. Being fit and well-conditioned for his sporting activities was always a top priority for Furlo and he was known for always doing so with a smile and a well-timed joke.
A freak accident on the rugby field in St Helena Bay ended his sporting career, and life as he knew it changed dramatically. It was in the first half of the match, when a tackle resulted in him sustaining a spinal injury leaving him completely paralysed and reliant on a wheelchair for mobility. He had to face a future that no one could have prepared him for.
The Players’ Fund joined Furlo on his journey very shortly after the accident and paid him a number of visits whilst he was undergoing rehabilitation at the Life Vincent Pallotti Hospital in Pinelands in Cape Town. During these difficult days and despite all the scary changes that were occurring in his world, Furlo’s sense of humour, determined character and friendly nature shone through. He displayed incredible bravery when invited to attend the Cell C Sharks Captain’s run at DHL Newlands only two months after the accident. It was his first trip out of hospital in a new wheelchair and in his “new body”. All those around him could see the reality of the situation sinking in, however he attended the practice flanked by his supportive and loving family and was revered as a “hero” and an “inspiration” to all the Cell C Sharks players who met him.
After returning to his home in Abbotsdale, Furlo started working with a local NPO school for children with disabilities called Jo Dolphin, and still remains an active member of the organisation till this day.
In 2020, another positive opportunity arose when together with his friend and Occupational Therapist, Hilletje Wiehahn, they created Grace – Adaptive Clothing and Equipment. This online store offers a range of products catering for people living with disabilities and those who have limited mobility post-surgery as well as many other useful products
In order to kick-start this exciting joint venture, the Players’ Fund gifted Furlo with a laptop and a 10-week University of Cape Town (UCT) Digital Marketing Course was arranged by the Players 4 Players – loyal fundraising friends of the Fund.
Murray Turner, Players 4 Players member and Digital Engagement Manager at 2U (GetSmarter) who arranged the generous donation said “As a former rugby player and avid member of many teams I know the true value of knowing when someone ‘has your back’. Over the last ten years I’ve seen first-hand how the Players’ Fund has become the team behind all rugby players who are seriously injured on the field and it is an honour to be able to help facilitate this course for Furlo where he will gain relevant knowledge applicable to his new business.”
In February 2021 it is with great pride that Furlo completed the Digital Marketing course with a 72% average mark, an astounding effort which he reflects on by saying, “The content opened up a new world to me and also helped me understand how targeted marketing happens online. I now understand why I often see things “popping up” while I am on the internet – it’s no accident. The GetSmarter Digital Marketing course is packed full of valuable information and gives step by step guidelines on how to apply that knowledge in business.”
He reflects on the opportunity as a person with a disability by saying, “Fighting this fight called disability is made so much easier with people like Murray who has invested in my future – I am really so grateful”.
Furlo is just one of many positive stories that the Chris Burger Petro Jackson Players’ Fund is able to share thanks to the rugby community at large who choose to help rugby players like Furlo whose lives were changed on the field.
In order to continue playing this supporting role, the Fund appeals to the rugby loving public to choose this organisation for charitable giving, whether large or small, it all makes a difference.
If you still needed convincing, all donors of R1000 or more in the month of March 2021 will receive a personal call of thanks from a former Springbok captain.