New Zealand Woman’s Weekly - - COVER STORY -

He was best known as a rugby player. But Sir Colin Meads was also a great hu­man­i­tar­ian, sup­port­ing char­i­ties be­cause he be­lieved it was im­por­tant to give back.

Colin was a long­time mem­ber, and later pa­tron, of the New Zealand Rugby Foundation, which sup­ports play­ers who have suf­fered cat­a­strophic in­juries. He even drove up to Auck­land to at­tend the char­ity’s an­nual gen­eral meeting in March, de­spite feel­ing “pretty crook”, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment re­leased by the foundation.

“He al­ways went out of his way to spend time with the

VIPs [Very In­jured Play­ers],” says the foundation. “At events, he could al­ways be found yarn­ing away to them, tak­ing per­sonal in­ter­est in them and their fam­i­lies and car­ers. He al­ways made each in­di­vid­ual feel like the most im­por­tant per­son in the room.”

He often spoke at events and “his mana, quiet pow­er­ful voice, sto­ries and hu­mour al­ways had en­tire au­di­ences cap­tured”. When he mixed with the guests, we al­ways en­joyed watch­ing peo­ple’s re­ac­tions. Peo­ple loved him.”

One VIP once com­mented, “I bet Colin will never know how long his shadow is, he was a hero to thou­sands of us young fel­las.”

Another or­gan­i­sa­tion Colin gave his whole­hearted back­ing to was IHC New Zealand, which sup­ports peo­ple with in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties. In

1974, he promised to help the char­ity for two years, but he was never able to walk away.

“Colin never stopped look­ing for ways to make life bet­ter for peo­ple with in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties,” says IHC New Zealand. “He be­lieved that as a for­mer All Black, with the op­por­tu­ni­ties he had been given, he had a re­spon­si­bil­ity to lend a hand where he could.”

He put the pro­ceeds from his speak­ing en­gage­ments into a special ac­count set up with IHC and, in 1988, the money went to­wards buy­ing a farm in Te Kuiti that pro­vided em­ploy­ment for peo­ple with in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties and taught them farm­ing skills.

“I can re­mem­ber the thrill of some of them get­ting their first pay,” he proudly said once.

Colin would stand for hours at Mys­tery Creek Fiel­d­ays, whip­ping up sup­port for

IHC. He backed farm-based fundrais­ing schemes, in­clud­ing the IHC calf scheme, which en­cour­aged dairy farm­ers to raise a calf and do­nate the pro­ceeds to IHC in exchange for gum­boots. The scheme has raised more than $1m.

“Colin Meads made an ex­tra­or­di­nary con­tri­bu­tion to im­prove the lives of peo­ple with in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties – one-on-one and on a large scale,” says IHC chief ex­ec­u­tive Ralph Jones.

The huge sup­porter of IHC New Zealand meeting young rugby fan Isaac Lyons.

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