Name: Mecenzi Howard
Pursuit: My main goal at present is to qualify and make the Australian Squad for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio. Playing Boccia is my passion and my love however over the past 12 months I have also been invited to speak in front of people, talking about my sport, myself, my condition, and I have found that I am good at this but i enjoy it. I have also spoken at a number of school about Boccia and how it has opened up my life, my world and given me a future, dreams and aspirations. I think along with playing Boccia, I want to pursue a career in motivational speaking, to help other young people with a disability to that there is so much more out there.
I am nearly 16 years old and have Spastic Quadriplegia Cerebral Palsy. This means that I am physically affected in all areas of my body. I also suffer a number of other health problems but I don’t let them stop me in my life. I was diagnosed when I was 6 months old and had many years of early intervention, including about 6 years of Conductive Education at the Spastic Centre (Cerebral Palsy Alliance) at Allambie. I live in Horsley, a suburb of Wollongong with my mum and dad and older sister Tayla. They are and have always been my greatest supporters and fans and I would not be where I am without them. I am in year 10 at Figtree High School and have really good friends, teachers and support people there. I have a very large family who I love and who are very supportive of me. I have a pet bird, my cocktail Ringo, who does everything with me, he is my baby and I love him so much.
When did you start?
I was invited by my physiotherapist to a “Come and try day” for disabled children at Campbeltown in May 2009 when was in year 6. Her dad took her up and met her physio there who proceeded to show Mecenzi several sports; she introduced Mecenzi to Peter King, the Boccia NSW coach/manager. Mecenzi was shown the basics of the game and preceded to impress everyone with some emerging talent. She then had a game with an Australia Boccia Paralympian and beat him!! Peter King then spoke with my husband and explained a few of the technical parts of the game, classification, rules then onto training and so on. He also explained that due to Mecenzi’s disability her classification is a BC1, which are rare so they were very interested in getting Mecenzi on board. Mecenzi then had to travel to Narabeen regularly to train with the NSW team. As a result, we started up an Illawarra Boccia club so she had regular training and to also introduce the sport to the Wollongong area. Our club is a totally voluntary club run by the Howard family. I train under my mum in Wollongong every week, as we couldn't drive to Narabeen as it was too far. I was invited to play in the 2010 NSW Boccia State titles and did OK for my first attempt. I was then selected in the NSW Rep Squad for the 2010 nationals, where in the teams event we won Silver. I have been in the NSW Rep squad ever since and now I am in the Senior AUstralian Squad.
Career highlight or biggest achievement?
My biggest achievement so far would be my selection in the Senior Paralympic Preparation Squad (PPP) in November 2012. I was in the Junior PPP squad but after my Gold winning performance at the November 2012 Junior Titles I was put up into the Senior Squad. Training with these other Australian representatives is amazing, I learn so much and their support and encouragement makes me even more focused and determined. And I have just been announced as the 2013 Wollongong Australia Day Sports Award Winner, for my achievements in 2012.
What is your dream?
My dream is be an Australian Paralympian, to represent my country at a sport that I love. My sport I hope one day will help me be independent, give me a career so I do not have to be totally dependent on my family forever. I want to be a role model, for other people with disabilities in my community.
Who or what have inspired you?
My family. My family have been through so much over the years but they never give up and always put others first. They do everything for me, to help and support me in everything I do. My family is inspirational, and I wouldn't be where I am today without them.
Who's your hero?
My mum. My mum is amazing, she always fostered kids with special needs, before I was born, then she put herself through university to teach children with special needs when I started kindergarten and halfway through uni, she had a battle with breast cancer. Now she is my sports assistant and travels everywhere with me to help me achieve my goals. I look up to her, and I take her strength at times that I need it.
Any other special talents?
I have a good sense of humour, everyone says that "I have been here before". I love to entertain people, and generally just be around people, I love to listen to them and to share my story with them. I am pretty good at school too, I am at a new school now and I am doing very feel, hopefully I will go to uni when I finish Year 12.
I love the Australian boy band The Collective ( I met them when they came to Wollongong recently :)). I am going to see One Direction this year and can't wait. Pink and Michael Bauble are also my favourites. I do enjoy when me and mum have to drive to Sydney, because we listen to a lot of her older music.
My favourite movie is the new version of Footloose.
Favourite TV Show?
I have a few favourite TV shows, they are: Home and Away, Glee, Packed to the Rafters and Hamish & Andy
I love most foods but my favourite is spaghetti and meatballs my dad makes.
How the grant will help you/how will you use the money?
This grant will help me this year with my new equipment and also help towards all the costs involved in the Paralympic Qualification process. The money will help take the pressure of my parents who support me financially.
Last words: Quote or Motto you live by?
"Don't dis my Ability"... I am not disabled, I just need some help sometimes. Live life to the fullest.... And my favourite, from my Australian Boccia coach "Unrelenting Pursuit of Athlete Goals"