Unique fundraiser Pals of injured rugby fan Philip Caldwell hope to virtually sell out Aviva Stadium to raise funds for him
Friends bid to raise funds after pal's life-changing injury while playing rugby
The family and friends of a rugby fan who suffered a life-changing spinal injury are aiming to virtually fill the Aviva Stadium in tribute to him.
Keen rugby player and coach Philip Caldwell suffered a serious spinal injury this summer which left him with temporary paralysis.
Following three intense months under the care of staff in Dublin's Mater Hospital, Philip is now embarking on the long road of rehabilitation in the National Rehabilitation Hospital.
Now his friends have spoken of his determination and positive attitude as they embark on a fundraising campaign.
"He's incredibly determined, phenomenal. I've been astounded by his positivity and his determination," said his friend, Ian Morgan.
"He's been in rehab maybe a month. It's great the help he's getting and the treatment he gets. It's a terrific facility. The positivity around him and around the people who want to help him medically and through fundraising has been amazing."
The 38-year-old, who's been involved in rugby throughout his life, suffered a freak accident while playing tag rugby. Ian was there when Philip suffered a contusion to his spine.
"He unfortunately was going in to score a try and lost a little bit of balance, hit off the hoarding around the pitch. If you saw the accident you'd say how did that happen? If you tried to do it you couldn't. It was the first game of the league.
"We realised straight away that something was wrong. He was dazed, he was lying on his back."
Fortunately, some of the players on the day were part of a medical team, and quickly realised he had an injury.
"It was all managed very quickly and very well. He was brought to the Mater spinal injury ward and they were brilliant there," said Ian.
"From day one he's been remarkable in his attitude to the whole thing and his family has been great. It happened on July 13 and he's out of the Mater now and in rehab out in Dun Laoghaire."
Over the next few months, the rehab team will assist Philip in learning to walk again, use his arms and hands and learn to deal with his life-changing experience.
He has already made progress and is regaining movement in his body, as doctors assess what if any permanent damage has been caused.
The second round of lockdown has also been an emotional challenge as his visits have gone from limited to none at all. Philip has also had to put his life on hold professionally and personally.
That's why his friends and the wider rugby community have come up with a unique fundraiser - to virtually fill the Aviva Stadium for one of Ireland's forthcoming Nations Cup games.
With matches played behind closed doors and fans unable to attend, The Philip Caldwell Trust has joined forces with the Aviva Stadium and the IRFU to 'Fill the Aviva 4 Philly'. The aim is to virtually sell out the stadium by selling all 51,700 tickets which would fill the stadium on a match day in normal times.
Funds raised will be used to financially support Philip in his recovery and fund medical expenses, physiotherapy and any home or vehicle adaptations that may be required.
These funds will help provide the support needed for him to help him try and get back to the life he was living prior to July 13.
Any excess funds in the trust will be donated to the IRFU Charitable Trust which supports other injured sports people in the rugby community.
"The family is delighted that we're doing something and we're trying to do it in the best way possible," said Ian. "It has captured the imagination of people, which is great.
"We wanted to see what we could do. The attraction to it is you're filling the stadium. It has a focus, it's connected to rugby which he loves."
Philip will spend the coming months working on his recovery, and Ian said his determination and positivity has already inspired his family and friends.
"He wasn't paralysed. A huge amount of the recovery is down to him and the hard work he's doing. He's able to walk but he's not walking properly yet. He can't put his hands over his arms yet, but it's all progress. With this injury you can get better."
They've been heartened to see contributions from the other side of the world as Philip played rugby Down Under for a couple of years.
"He'd be well known in rugby circles here and elsewhere. Philip is a very likeable bloke, personable and really good company. We've been in contact with them and they've been spreading the word as well. That's the great thing about social media, the way you can get word out."
- Fill the Aviva 4 Philly aims to virtually sell out Ireland's Nations Cup match on December 5. For more information about the fundraiser, log on to fta4philly.com
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