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Community Rallies For Young Jessi

By Mark Beale

Jessi Clarke just wants to play like the other kids, and this week she did just that, thanks to the generosity of the Whitsunday community.

The 11-year-old was born with cerebral palsy, leaving her wheelchair bound and needing round-the-clock care.

When a trip to the Special Olympics in Townsville rolled around, the Clarke family was told the bus wouldn’t cater for Jessi and her wheelchair.

“Jessi was extremely upset that she wasn’t going,” family friend Paula Hovey said.

Ms Hovey tried every avenue available to get Jessi north but the need to travel in a wheelchair left only one option – a $1500 taxi ride.

“It’s quite frustrating, I couldn’t even hire a car,” she said.

After an outpouring of generosity from locals Jessi made it to Townsville, with enough money left to give Jessi’s mum, who is also her full-time carer, an afternoon at a spa.

“I’ve been in Airlie for a year and I must say this has restored my faith in humanity, and it’s also shown me what an amazing community Airlie is,” Ms Hovey said.

“She was so excited on Friday when she found out, she got kicked out of class three times for squealing.”

With the Clarke family van “on its last legs” and $45,000 needed to replace it, Ms Hovey said this demonstrated a need in the community.

“We definitely need to raise awareness that this community needs a van,” she said.

“There are many special needs people here and apart from a taxi there really is nothing.”

To help support the Clarke family with Jessi’s ongoing medical bills and hopefully a replacement van, donate to the Jessi Rae Clarke Trust (trustee Deborah Lewis) at ANZ, BSB 013141, account number 908472067.

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