In 2016 The Cauliflower Club made a donation to the Sargood Foundation for use in the gym at Sargood on Collaroy.
The Board of The Cauliflower Club had the great pleasure to view Sargood and see how the money donated in 2016 has been utilised.
Believed to be unique - Sargood is a holistic health and wellness resort specifically designed for people with spinal injuries.
Typically you have hotels and resorts that claim to be accessible. You have rehabilitation and clinical hospital facilities - but nothing in between, and certainly nothing that is in the luxury space and designed to be accessible. Whilst that makes Sargood unique, the most exciting concept of Sargood is to be a centre of excellence for people with spinal injuries.
Nick Taylor, former General Manager of Sargood Foundation was part of the team that showed us around, and provided some insights into the value of the centre. “When you have been through rehabilitation, that is a very challenging time in your life and once you put it behind you, you are not keen to go back. You are keen to move on, but there is no way to keep in touch with medical advancements and treatment techniques that may help manage your condition.
There are a few key areas that are critical to your on-going health. Sargood provides the opportunity to keep in touch with advancements in treatment, without going back to rehab and to share experiences through peer to peer interactions.”
In the four months since it has opened its doors, the sport and recreation opportunities available have had a huge impact on those who have already stayed at Sargood. The gym overlooks Collaroy Beach and offers a broad range of equipment to suit the needs of a range of spinal injuries, and the varying levels of functional ability. This is where the funds donated by The Cauliflower Club have been utilised.
For example, someone with an incomplete spinal injury, who still has some use of their legs, but struggles to walk, can sit on a laid-back recumbent cycle and pedal with their legs and try to stimulate those muscles and get that function active and working again.
There are also specialised treadmills and parallel bars that allow users to develop muscles to assist in walking with a frame, stick or crutches as part of their rehabilitation. “It is difficult for a wheelchair user to get an accessible gym wherever you live” advised Nick. “I can do all my weights in my chair and don’t have to transfer in and out to try out each piece of equipment”. Gym users have a pre-programmed swipe card that sets their program, including weights and number of repetitions. As well as the gym and yoga classes, there are a broad range of other facilities, including the surf club and golfing facilities.
Nick described how he recently went out on the jet powered surfboard - the Wavejet - his first experience in the waves in 20 years. “I grew up surfing, but had not been on a board since my injury. The recreation officer took me out into the water and I got to ride a surfboard again. I had a bluetooth remote around my wrist, clicked the button and the jets started up beneath the board to propel me along, at paddling speed, and let me get out in the surf at Collaroy and catch a few waves. Even though I am lying down, i get that exhilarating feeling again and that is an amazing experience.”
Andrew, who has also recently had a chance to enjoy the Wavejet, backed up the value of the experience. “It is hard to get into the water in Sydney, as there are so few places that have a ramp down into the water and when there is one, the majority of the time it is filled with prams and is rarely used for chairs, so the great access here is an enormous bonus”.
Similarly, playing golf on the ParaGolfer at Long Reef is another amazing experience. As Nick explained “It is so empowering to be standing up again, in a standing wheelchair, and playing golf with my brothers. It is one of the few sports where the handicap system of the sport is a great leveller and it does not matter if you are able bodied or not, you can still compete against each other.”
On check in to the Resort, guests are provided with a fob that opens doors automatically when you wheel up and within guest suites you can control lighting, air conditioning, window blinds, heating, TV and other services via an ipad. Medical equipment has been discreetly accommodated in the design, so that the environment does not feel clinical. As Nick commented “ I have never seen anywhere that incorporates all the medical features you would want with the level of luxury you would expect from a high end hotel. There is nowhere tha thas managed to walk the fine line. The beds do what hospital beds do, but do not look like a hospital bed”.
Sargood features 17 suites , all named after local beaches, with double beds, and many feature a lounge that folds out to a queen bed so you can have a family stay. “We came to understand that working with spinal injury is a one size fits none scenario” explains Nick. “Therefore, Sargood is designed to be adaptable to each person’s needs. The design elements of each room are adaptable. What you need is provided and what you don’t can be packed away and you don’t have to see it. When you tell us your specific requirements, we fit only that, and it avoids the clinical feel.” Equipment is discreetly accommodated into cupboards or recessed to maintain the luxury space feel.
During our tour, hosted by Liz and Rod Macaqueen AM from the Sargood Foundation, we enjoyed the stunning artwork around the Resort. The images were commissioned to showcase places that can be accessed by wheelchair in the local area. As Liz explained, “Just to spend a couple of days here out of the hospital environment, to regroup by the beach, is wonderful. You can get all the way around the headland and the Golf Club. It is all wheelchair accessible”. Andrew Edmondson echoed these thoughts.”People who come here in chairs are blown away. They realise it is designed for us rather than us fitting into someone else’s world”.
As Sargood grows and matures there will be more opportunities to share experiences, medical style conferences and programs will form be part of the range of services on offer to improve physical health and wellbeing. Nick was General Manager of Sargood Foundation through the development of the Resort, and now works with iCare, a partner to Sargood, as Senior Project Manager of Empowered Living- “The biggest challenge for Sargood currently is to make sure that everyone with a spinal injury in Australia knows about it, and to help fund those people who want to come and use the facility but are not funded by the NDIS or iCare” Sources of funding are changing through the new NDIS format. If your rehabilitation plan has a goal that can be met through the facilities at Sargood, then your funding may cover a stay through NDIS. Under the lifetime care and support program with iCare - for people who are injured on NSW Roads - some stays can be covered also.
The Foundation aims to support others, who are not covered through insurance. The history of the site is a feel good story of its own. Frederick Sargood was a wealthy man who donated the land of his holiday home, the site of the current Resort, for returning soldiers from WW1 to rehabilitate. Rod Macqueen told us that when he was young growing up in the area the site was a children’s hospital, and as a 10 year old he remembers visiting with the school to give christmas gifts to the children with polio. When the opportunity came up for a new facility, the local community again rallied round. The Sargood Foundation is the not for profit organisation behind the concept. They brought the Partners together and raised the funds to build the facility. The facility is 50% owned by iCare, 25% by a private donor and 25% by the local community. Is is a truly inspiring experience to visit Sargood on Collaroy. To hear the uplifting stories of some of the people who have already had a chance to visit is a privilege. From time to time there are public open days, and we would encourage all Members to visit if you get the chance.
More information on Sargood Foundation can be found at http://www.sargoodfoundation.org.au/ and for up to date information on the Resort, visit http://sargoodoncollaroy.com/ We will revisit Sargood in the coming months to hear more inspiring stories from people who have been able to enjoy this unique experience. The funds donated by The Cauliflower Club have been put to very good use and are definitely making a difference on a daily basis.