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HomeLifestyleParaplegia no barrier to driving a shitbox, proves Mel

Paraplegia no barrier to driving a shitbox, proves Mel

Mel Harrison and Jacob Graham today began their seven-day straight rally drive from Mackay in Queensland to Darwin in the Northern Territory for the Spring 2022 Shitbox Rally. The rally will see participants from all across the country competing in cars worth no more than $1500 with the goal of raising money and awareness for the Cancer Council.

Not only raising money for the Cancer Council, Mel and Jacob will be pioneering the push for inclusivity in the sport, with Mel being the first competitor using a wheelchair to complete the rally, using hand controls to operate the car.

“I like the idea of doing something that’s so adventurous and that helps raise money for the Cancer Council,” said Mel. “Having multiple people over my lifetime lost to cancer, I’m happy to be able to help and raise money.”

Mel, 41, has been in been in a wheelchair since the age of 14 due to paraplegia. She met Jacob, 36 and from North Narabeen, at Sargood on Collaroy, a resort focused on facilitating those with spinal cord injuries, four years ago.

Jacob is co-founder of local company Access Adventures. The group focuses on adaptive recreation so that people living with a disability can live life to the fullest by doing very cool stuff. We first wrote about Jacob in 2021. 

“She was there on holiday and she had this infectious personality,” said Jacob. “She lights up the room whenever she’s around.”

“We first started some swimming lessons as Mel wanted to get in the water, but the adventures grew from there to cycling, kayaking, paddling down the Tumut river. Anything crazy we can get out hands on, we’re getting into it.”

For their off-road adventure through the outback, Mel and Jacob will be making use of a freshly painted 2006 Toyota Torago that was once used as a cab and has over 950 000km to its name.

While the car is cheaper than most, it cost $9,000 to be fitted with hand controls that enable Mel to operate it.

The recently refurbished 2006 Toyota Torago that will take Mel and Jacob across Australia

“It used to be my friend’s cab who used to drive me around back in the day,” said Mel. “It’s cool to make more memories in the car and to be able to drive it myself.”

While they’ve been on plenty of adventures together, driving in a rally will be a first for both Mel and Jacob.

“We’re expecting to drive five to nine hours everyday,” said Mel. “Of the seven days, four of the nights will be camping and the other nights we’ll be in a cabin or motel, so it’ll be an exciting challenge.” 

“We’ll probably to be covered in dust for seven days, with maybe the odd flat tyre,” said Jacob. “Where it starts it’s about 27 degrees, and I think some spots in the middle of the rally are sitting between 35 and 38 at the moment.”

“We’ve gone to plenty of places in the past that say they’re accessible when they aren’t, so we’re expecting some challenging times, but the support from the Shitbox rally organisation has been second to none.”

“I think it’s really good for them and has opened their eyes to being more inclusive to those with disability in their rallies.”

If you’re able to donate and support Mel and Jacob’s team in the rally, ‘Breaking Down Barriers’, follow the link below to their page on the Shitbox Rally website.

DONATE HERE: https://spring2022.shitboxrally.com.au/breaking-down-barriers

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