FARMER & HUMANITARIAN
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.