Posted on Thursday 23rd July, 2020

In May 2019, Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ) started The Celebration Project to officially acknowledge our 209 New Zealand Paralympians. To date, 83 Paralympians have received their unique numbered pin and certificate at The Celebration Project community events.

126 Paralympians are still to be acknowledged with many scheduled to attend the upcoming Celebration Project community events to be held in Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown throughout 2020/2021 (dates tbc).

With some Paralympians unable to attend events, PNZ has taken to the road to meet with individual Paralympians. Today Paralympian #108 Tom Simeon was presented with his unique numbered pin and certificate in a special reception in Auckland.  

On Thursday 23 July 2020, PNZ Chief Executive Fiona Allan was invited to Tom’s home. Geneva Healthcare, one of New Zealand’s trusted experts in disability support and Community Living home provider for Tom for more than 17 years, contributed to the organisation of this event.

On this day, Tom officially received his Paralympic pin (#108) and celebrated his achievements with his flatmates, carers, PNZ and Boccia New Zealand representatives. The official Paralympic ‘number’ is a unique number that is bestowed only once a Paralympian has competed at their first Paralympic Games. Athletes are then ordered alphabetically within each Paralympic Games.

Tom was the first New Zealand representative to compete in the Para sport of Boccia, alongside Paralympian #92 Henk Dijkstra at the Paralympic Games. Tom competed at the Atlanta 1996 Paralympic Games in individual and pairs Boccia events. He was part of a team of 34 Kiwi Paralympians who collectively won 19 medals.

Atlanta Olympic stadium from the top with Opening ceremony activities on the field
The Atlanta 1996 Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony – by Getty Images

Fiona Allan (Chief Executive, PNZ) said: “We were honoured to be welcomed in Tom’s home surrounded by his friends and supporters and celebrate with them Tom’s Paralympic achievements and ongoing role in society promoting the Paralympic values. It is Paralympians like Tom who have contributed to New Zealand Paralympic Teams success by representing Kiwis with pride and dignity. Through this success they have inspired Kiwis to think differently about disability.”

Nicky Stevenson, Geneva Healthcare Group Quality, Risk & Residential Manager: “It’s been such a privilege for us at Geneva Healthcare to be able to support Tom in every way and be part of his journey. We are very excited to continue being there for Tom and looking forward to supporting him in achieving his goals, whatever he sets his heart on, and celebrating his future milestones.”

13 medals exposed on a table with their coloured ribbons
Tom’s Boccia medals in national and international competitions – by Geneva Healthcare

In addition to the wraparound and daily support for Tom, Geneva Healthcare also contributes to keeping him involved in an adapted sport environment. Tom has not lost his taste for competition as he takes part in Geneva’s annual Colour Cruise, a fun race for hundreds of people with disability.

Boccia teammate Henk Dijkstra lives in Dunedin and remembers his Paralympic debut in Atlanta 1996 with Tom: ‘Atlanta was very hot and steamy. Tom and I formed a very strong relationship on and off the court. Tom was a very laid back kind of guy with a really dry sense of humour.’

Over the past few weeks, PNZ has individually acknowledged several other Paralympians as part of The Celebration Project and will be presenting more in the near future More content will be released about those events soon on PNZ digital channels as part of ‘The Celebration Project – On the Road’ video series.

Cover photo description left to right: Scott Martin (Boccia New Zealand), Nicky Stevenson (Geneva Healthcare), Tom Simeon, Fiona Allan (Paralympics New Zealand)
Photo Credit: Geneva Healthcare