Toni Leefe


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At the age of 14, I had an accident on a trampoline and dislocated my neck at C5/C6, thus cutting through my spinal cord and leaving me paralysed from the chest down. I have no use of my legs and very limited use of my arms.

Prior to my accident I was a typical teenage girl growing up in Auckland. I loved sports like gymnastics, trampolining, double mini and touch rugby. I was full time in my 4th form year at high school and I taught gymnastics to young children after school twice a week.

I became at Student Member of MFPA in the year 2000. I was at the Spinal Unit one day using the gym when I saw the late Alex Craig (former Member of the MFPA), doing a painting demonstration holding the brush in his mouth. He was trying to encourage the patients to have a go but no one was keen, so I volunteered and that’s when I discovered I was not too bad painting with a brush in my mouth. From here I went and brought some watercolour paints and began lessons at a community church. As with all MFPA Artists I submitted 6 paintings and was accepted as a Student Member.

After leaving High School, I went on to get my Bachelor of Education in Primary School Teaching. While I still have not yet taught full time in a school, I have used that Education with my job as a Disability Awareness Presenter for CCS Disability Action. I go into Kindy’s, Schools, Businesses, and almost anywhere that would like to learn about being more aware, accepting, and accessible of/for the disabled community.

I enjoy music, movies and food whenever I can lol... I also love being at the beach, almost any beach.

I am now married and live in Hamilton with my husband Paul, our 3 year old son and 8 year old dog. My husband also has a disability and uses a wheelchair. We met playing wheelchair rugby in Auckland. I have one brother who lives with his wife and 2 children in Wellington and my parents live in Russell, Bay of Islands.

One of my goals is to learn to drive. I have a modified van but the little strength I have in my arms is borderline as to whether I will be strong enough to turn the wheel safely.

© Toni Leefe 2024

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