Retired Campbell couple Helen and Eugene Holzapfel’s lives were turned upside down when Eugene suffered a spinal injury on holiday in the UK several years ago that rendered him unable to walk.
But since that life-changing event, they have overcome great difficulty and many challenges to quietly assist a lot of others in their predicament.
As co-founders of Spinal ACT, Helen and Eugene helped establish the group about three years ago to create a united voice for others living with spinal injury.
They told Canberra Weekly one of the wonderful spinoffs of Spinal ACT is the community it has created.
“We had no idea how many other people had suffered spinal injury … We’ve got a lot from the other members,” Eugene said.
One of Spinal ACT’s other achievements is helping establish a gym dedicated to treating people with a neurological disability in the ACT.
After undergoing treatment in Sydney at Spinal Cord Injuries Australia’s (SCIA) NeuroMoves gym, Helen and Eugene helped found one here.
Eugene said he was inspired to act after experiencing the point of difference in Sydney.
“We had concentrated time there, and I could feel the benefit. We wanted the opportunity of having that in Canberra.”
Helen said the Sydney NeuroMoves facility also made a wonderful impression on her.
“We’d had the hope beaten out of us, and that’s why the new NeuroMoves is such an optimistic, happy place,” she said.
In late 2017, the NeuroMoves facility opened in Flynn, due in part to the ACT Government contributing $300,000 toward the project.
Since opening, the gym has been a resounding success: it’s currently open five days a week, employs four professional staff members, and has a waiting list of clients; servicing the entire Canberra region.
“People from Batemans Bay come up, Wagga Wagga, Albury … Since we’re closer than Sydney for these places, the catchment area is about 1 million people,” Eugene said.
Helen and Eugene have co-authored Home, Hope and Helen; a book covering their respective experiences with spinal injury; available at Harry Hartog or Paperchain Bookstore, Manuka for $20, with $2 donated to SCIA from each book sold.