Northern Beaches teenager, 17-year-old Fletcher Crowley, first caught our attention when he took his wheelchair for a spin near hospital grounds, recording a distinctly phallic shape on his fitness app to give his social media followers a giggle. Newly diagnosed as paraplegic after an accident, his silliness has become a mark of his resilience.
It has been almost four months since an attempted double backflip on a mountain bike left the Manly Vale local living as a paraplegic, and since then he’s turned his love of silliness into a fundraising campaign (‘Get Silly’) dedicated towards spinal injury research.
“I used to say ‘get silly’ all the time, I was dropping it into the trick that I had my accident on, I was screaming it out… I also got it tattooed on my leg and my parents didn’t know about it.
“Since my accident, my mate started making stickers and from there I thought I’d turn it into something bigger and put it towards a good cause – hopefully, eventually see some people get back to walking around the Northern Beaches!” He said.
The teen’s high energy and fun-loving attitude has proven infectious at the rehab facility – Royal North Shore Rehabilitation Centre – where he resides five days a week – creating a cheeky atmosphere with staff and patients alike, getting them on board the cause.
“I’m the youngest here by like, two years. There’s a gap from 19 to like, probably 75. They’ve all helped me and my physio as well making it fun.”
Fletcher’s parents are no strangers to a family-bound health crisis with their 20-year-old son becoming diagnosed with the rare Von-Hippel-Landau syndrome three years ago.
“Ever since my accident my dad was like, you got to choose a sport for the Paralympics. I’ve been a skier since I was young. So we’re still going to do that.”
Goals to work towards
Besides his newfound passion for charity work, Fletcher has remained as athletically ambitious as he was before the accident, slightly adjusting his goals to align with his physical abilities.
“Ever since my accident my dad was like, you got to choose a sport for the Paralympics. I’ve been a skier since I was young. So we’re still going to do that. So hopefully, sit skiing 2030, French Alps!
“But I know after school, I have a goal to ride from Perth to Sydney to raise money for spinal awareness,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher’s mother, Nicky Crowley, is blown away by his progress.
“Pride, surprise, trepidation. This is all so huge, we just aren’t sure how to react to his positive outlook.”
“He was super active before his accident and it feels like he’s healed so quickly and just taken up where he left off, but on a different set of wheels,’ she said.
Coming from an industry of design and advertising, Fletcher’s parents have helped out behind the scenes in establishing Fletchers ‘Get Silly’ campaign.
“So many people have said they can see him doing great things. For himself and for disability. He is such a driven, compassionate and fun human – he really could do anything he wanted.” Nicky said.
“So many people have said they can see him doing great things. For himself and for disability. He is such a driven, compassionate and fun human – he really could do anything he wanted.”
But as ambitious as Fletcher is to achieve his goals he still has his priorities nestled within education.
“I never thought I’d say this but I’ve never been more excited to get back to school!” Fletcher exclaimed.
“I’m going to finish my HSC and maybe even become a physio.”
Life beyond the injury
There are many rehabilitation centres for spinal cord injury to provide realistic and exciting opportunities for those adjusting to their new lifestyle.
Sargood Collaroy Spinal Rehabilitation Center is a state-of-the-art facility dedicated to just that.
Walking through the building you can feel a breath of hope and potential as residents zoom around the building cordially interacting with staff before moving on with the rest of their day.
Sargood physio, Kierre Williams, shared the impact the centre has on the people she works with.
“People leave this place beaming. They’ve had an experience with adaptive bikes and have tried out all sorts of virtual reality. They’ve been out in the class, they’ve been on fishing charters, they’ve tried surfing, they’ve tried everything for the first time that they didn’t think was possible.
“People have just this overwhelming experience when they come here.”