Lifting the spirits of Jamieson Leeson and her family
Article from Men of League Magazine – September 2016
Jamieson Leeson is an example of the Men of League Foundation providing comfort to more than old footballers. The Foundation has been as inspired by her attitude to life as she has been by our support.
When we think of big hearts in rugby league we usually think about giant props battling at the collision, hardy hookers who play 80 minutes, back-rowers who make 40 tackles every game or the little men who confront and contain bigger men every weekend.
We usually think about big hearts being in the athletes out on the field but they aren’t restricted to the footy field. The big hearts are everywhere in the rugby league community – just ask Jamieson Leeson.
Jamieson Leeson is 13 years old and lives in Dunedoo, about 90 kilometres east of Dubbo in New South Wales. Jamieson and her whole family are rugby league mad and Jamieson herself is a one-eyed Manly Warringah Sea Eagles supporter.
Jamieson lives with spinal muscular atrophy, known as SMA, which is a degenerative muscle condition. SMA is the childhood version of motor neuron disease and Jamieson’s life is confined to a wheelchair. She has never walked or crawled and her life is dependent on her mother, Amanda, doing the basic things in life that we all take for granted – getting dressed, cutting up food, getting into and out of cars.
Jamieson has some mobility with the use of her electric wheelchair but has increasingly limited use of her arms and hands. Her muscles grow weaker with time, because her condition is degenerative and there is no cure. This means increasing reliance and dependence on Amanda.
Despite her condition, all her life Jamieson has been a familiar face at her brother Codi’s rugby league games, cheering him on and supporting the club where needed. Meanwhile, Amanda has been a regular volunteer in the canteen and at club barbecues. She has also ferried Codi and his teammates thousands of kilometres over the years to attend training and matches around central western NSW – the long roads and somewhat nomadic weekend life of footy players and families in the bush.
Helping Jamieson into and out of their family car every day has taken its toll on Amanda, who has previously ended up hospitalised with a slipped disk in her back. So with the Leeson family facing this latest challenge, the big-hearted rugby league community of Dunedoo stepped in.
Men of League Foundation Western Region Committee President Martin Cook says: “The Leeson family are just rugby league through and through. That’s why it was easy for the entire local rugby league community, including the Men of League Foundation, to come together to help one of our own.
“The Leesons are very well known in the Dunedoo rugby league community. The family is known for helping with everything needed around the club and always staying positive despite the challenges they face.”
After some local events in partnership with the Western Region committee, the Leesons soon had a visit from Men of League Foundation Wellbeing Manager Ben Ross.
With Ben came an announcement that the Foundation would be providing the Leesons with a customised van with specialist wheelchair lift to help with daily transport of Jamieson.
“There was pure joy on the faces of Amanda and Jamieson when I told them about the van. It’s going to be a customised van that will help with their health, make travel and transport safer and save them a lot of time. The van will genuinely improve their overall wellbeing and I know it’s going to make a huge difference to their life,” Ross said.
“The van was actually the request of Jamieson. When we asked how we could help her, she wanted a van because she knew how much this would help her mum. Despite all the challenges Jamieson faces, she has a big and beautiful heart to ask for help for her mother.”
Former National Board member Cook added: “Helping Jamieson and her family has been one of the most rewarding causes that our committee has been involved in. We know that they are tremendously thankful and it’s been a pleasure to be involved in helping to improve their quality of life.”
In July, Amanda and Jamieson attended the Men of League Foundation National Gala Dinner at the Four Points by Sheraton, Darling Harbour, as special guests of the Foundation.
Here, Jamieson was joined by her favourite player of all-time, Sea Eagles player Brenton Lawrence. Brenton had visited Jamieson when she was in intensive care to lift her spirits and now holds pride of place as her favourite NRL player.
“I don’t know where we’d be without the Men of League Foundation,” Amanda said at the Gala Dinner. “We are really humbled by your support. I can’t thank the Foundation enough.”
In 2016, our National Wellbeing Manager Ben Ross appeared with the Leesons on the NRL Footy Show to show how we’re helping to support Jamieson and her family and hopefully help them all live a better quality of life.