Our Ambassadors

These remarkable individuals generously dedicate their time and energy to further CatWalk’s mission.
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Sophia Malthus is a C4/5 quadraplegic after a horse-riding accident in 2016, when she was 19 years old.

During her stay at the Auckland Spinal Unit, a message in a letter sent by CatWalk Trust founder Catriona Williams helped Sophia to persevere: “never stop trying to wiggle your toes”.

And while Sophia initially focused on walking again, wiggling her toes has taken on a whole new meaning.

“Early on I placed a lot of my energy into walking again, but there came a point where I had to re-evaluate my priorities and focus on making the most of my new life.”

“That’s why I think this ambassadorship is so important – it’s me continuing to persevere, me ‘trying to wiggle my toes’.

Because I chose to focus my efforts on my new normal, I can now channel my initial motivation of walking in a new direction where I can hopefully make a difference for everyone in the SCI community, not just for myself.”

As well as being an ambassador for the Trust, Sophia is currently studying Law, working as a legal assistant for YouthLaw, and mentoring a 9 year old girl who lives with achondroplasia.

Sophia strives to be a ‘how-to’ resource for other young people navigating new injuries, and hopes to one day provide legal advice and education to ensure young people are informed of their SCI related entitlements.

By sharing specific parts of her life on social media, she “just wants to normalise it. Not everyone with a disability has the same opportunities that I’ve had, and it’s important for people to see the day-to-day of living with a disability, not just the glossy inspirational stuff.”

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Penny has been a wonderful CatWalk supporter since day one and is always the first to offer when help is needed. Penny is the proud owner of the Trelise Cooper Wellington Flagship Store and the Designer Clothing Gallery in Greytown. She has held several DCG sales raising money for CatWalk and attended many of our events. Penny travelled to New York with Team CatWalk in 2010 and is a member of The BIG Cycle team for 2013 as well. Penny says she

“loves being part of such a dynamic and passionate group of people and Catriona is ever inspiring. It is exciting to be part of the team and see significant advances towards our goal through research which is aided by grants from The CatWalk Trust. Added to this is the fun and opportunities we have by being part of CatWalk! The BIG Cycle is certainly a BIG challenge for me: when my personal trainer winds up the resistance on my spin bike and commands “4 minutes, flat out, NOW!” I have to remind myself it’s all for CatWalk – otherwise I’d probably just hit him!!”

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I have been fortunate enough to have been brought up in the New Zealand countryside surrounded by horses. My mother ran a riding school and my father was a dentist, and also a keen polo player. My father was in his early thirties when MS (Multiple sclerosis) put him in a wheel chair, he put up a brave fight but passed away ten years later. I competed alongside Catriona for many years before her accident, we both aspired for similar goals.

I don’t recall ever beating her, she is, as you know, a great competitor. I competed at both the Beijing and Athens Olympics as well as the world games in Spain and Germany. I placed 7th at the Olympics and world games individually. I am currently an Olympic Ambassador teaching Olympic values to NZ schools.

I have been involved and interested in the work of The CatWalk Trust with my knowledge of Catriona, the equestrian sport and by my father.

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31 December 2014: The day life changed in an instant. Nicko was at a party when he was run over by a car – twice – leaving him a high-level tetraplegic. Nicko speaks to groups and schools about resilience and positivity. In telling his story, Nicko gives people an insight into living with a spinal cord injury and how big an effect it has not only on himself but on others around him. Nicko inspires people to be who they are and follow their dreams. BKOW also support research financially through the sale of their clothing line.

Needing assistance to do even the simplest things in life. – he also suffers from neuropathic pain on a daily basis. Yet despite this, Nicko has not let his injury stop him. He is determined he will walk again, and is dedicated to a future where SCI no longer means paralysis for life.

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In one way or another, Gracie has been involved in the media and creative industries now for about 7 years. Everything from traditional newsroom journalism, hosting live radio and TV broadcasting, producing current affairs stories, website and digital management and social media.

Based in Auckland, Gracie epitomises the young successful woman of today and CatWalk are so fortunate to have her join us in an ambassador role.

“I am so honoured to be a Catwalk Ambassador! I have always loved what the trust stands for and I’m excited to be on board”.

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Kate was a member of CatWalk’s 2010 New York Marathon team. She has been involved with CatWalk since the beginning as a friend of Catriona’s. She works to prevent spinal cord injuries with her business importing and distributing air vests for horse riders and donates a portion of her profits from this to CatWalk.

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Anna is the founder of Hiatt & Co.

Based in Wanaka, Hiatt & Co is a business that is on a mission to reunite New Zealanders with the pride and joy of gathering healthy, delicious produce from their very own gorgeous edible garden. Hiatt & Co make it simple for busy beginner gardeners to create gorgeous edible gardens that are a feast for your eyes as well as your plate. When not in the garden Anna enjoys spending her time keeping fit or sharing her love of food and wine with family and friends.

“I spent three and a half months in Burwood Spinal Unit with fractured T 5,6 & 7. I was fortunate to be one of the ‘lucky’ ones able to walk out of there so am committed to helping those less lucky than me. To be involved in CatWalk is an utter pleasure. After spending time with Cat Williams and Hamish Ramsden, witnessing their infectious enthusiasm, how positively they cope with daily challenges of life that we easily take for granted. I have a deep admiration for both of them and they are a constant inspiration to me personally and many others to positively live life no matter what cards we are dealt.”

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Oliver Bradshaw works for financial firm UBS and lives in Auckland. He became a member of the Catwalk team in 2012 when he raised money for the charity by running in the New York City Marathon. Since then he has continued to participate in events to raise funds for CatWalk.

‘Writing this I realise how lucky I have been to meet so many inspirational people through CatWalk. It’s an honour to have met Catriona Williams and to witness the exceptional and dedicated team around her. After seeing what the Catwalk team are doing I also wanted to do my bit to find a cure for SCI.’

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Carolyn hails from Whangarei and is a qualified vet who specialised in small animal health. Carolyn suffered her SCI in November 2006 which left her a C5/6 incomplete tetraplegic. After surgery and 6 months rehabilitation in the UK, Carolyn came home to NZ for further rehabilitation at Burwood Spinal Unit.

Her goal was to be able to gain enough movement in her legs to walk down the aisle of her wedding 13 months later – a goal she achieved when on 28th Feb 2009 and with the support of her Dad on her right arm and her brother on her left arm, Carolyn married her fiance, South African vet, Doug Passmore.

Whilst carrying out her rehabilitation in 2008 Carolyn took on a job as a research assistant for the Burwood Academy of Independent Living (BAIL) who were involved in a SCI Life Histories research project run by Massey University.

It was the first project of its kind in NZ to follow the lives of NZers affected by SCI throughout the first two years following their impairment, so see how their SCI shaped their lives, their choices and chances in life. Through her involvement with this project, Carolyn undertook postgraduate study in human rehabilitation through the University of Otago and graduated with distinction in 2012.

“It also became apparent to me, both personally and through talking to the participants if the SCI life histories project, that the first 2 years following SCI are very early days in the path to recovery and rehabilitation and where life may lead. So subsequently further funding was applied for to have a follow-up study with the participants some years later. This follow up study was approved and I continue my work with Massey University in this study currently”.

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Debbie is a Human and Equine Sports Therapist who has run her own business for the last 6 years. Debbie was the soft tissue therapist at the 2012 London Olympics for the NZ Para-Equestrian team and she also attended the World Games in Normandy 2014 in the same role.

Debbie is now based in the UK, after 12 years in NZ and is passionate about bringing the work of the CatWalk Trust to a wider audience.

‘… after working closely with a group of courageous and inspiring people that make up the global para equestrian community, I became acutely aware of the importance of the work the Trust is doing. It is an absolute honour and privilege to be on board as an Ambassador, and I will support the team and their endeavours wholeheartedly …’

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Hamish has been a C5/C6 tetraplegic since the end of 1994 as a result of a farming accident. After the sale of the family farm he remained involved in the farming industry through a sheep and cattle genetics company of which he was one of the original founders and shareholders.

He then went on to run the Burwood Spinal Unit Education Group along with administering The Fathering the Future Trust for a period of years.

Upon leaving those roles, he has, since 2009, volunteered at a local Christchurch school in their Learning Support Department helping children who need some extra literacy support.

He continues to be an avid supporter of The Catwalk Trust, and their efforts to raise funds to find a cure for paralysis.

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I am Jamie Astwood and in 2013 I broke my T6/7/8 in a sand boarding accident in Northland.

I am determined I am going to walk again. Every night as I’m going to sleep I try and wiggle my toes and every day visualise walking.

CatWalk is an incredible support network and they’ve always got my back… excuse the pun! When I met Catriona back in 2015 she said to surround yourself with good people who support you and always have a positive attitude and keep smiling. No one likes to hang around a negative nancy!

I plan to get on with my life as normal as possible, working and spending time with my good friends and family. I look forward to seeing the advancements with the continuing research that CatWalk is involved in.

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Ian suffered a spinal cord injury a number of years ago but was fortunate to be a lucky near miss! He owns the renowned Village Goldsmith and has supported CatWalk frequently with highly sought after auction prizes.

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Sita Tarini Clark is a final year medical student at the University of Auckland. She has a keen interest in academic medicine and surgical research, having completed a BMedSc(Honours) year at the Department of Surgery in 2020.

Sita initiated and led a significant fundraising event in support of CatWalk ThirtyEightin38 involved a team of 13 young professionals individually climbing Mauao (Mount Maunganui) 38 times (the equivalent height of Mount Everest) in 38 hours, to fundraise money for, and raise awareness of, The CatWalk Trust.

Through organising ThirtyEightin38, Sita and the team were able to raise significant publicity for people living with spinal cord injury in NZ, with social media and radio campaigns and exposure in print media. The team, on average, completed the challenge in 35 hours, which included: 8,850m of elevation, 113km in distance, >150K+ steps and >2450 flights of stairs climbed. Ultimately, Sita and the Thirtyeightin38 team raised $33,674.81 in support of CatWalk’s critical mission.

Sita’s contribution to CatWalk has not stopped with ThirtyEightin38 She has since stayed in contact with Catriona Williams and plans to join CatWalk’s New York Marathon team and continue fundraising for spinal cord injury through future local and personal initiatives. She is honoured to become an Ambassador for CatWalk and hopes to initiate other creative fundraisers in the future, in support of CatWalk.

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Charlotte is a Wellington-based former broadcast journalist turned communications specialist who has taken a special interest in CatWalk since its inception. A long-time friend of Catriona’s, Charlotte’s possessed of the ability to set her emotional engagement to one side and provide constructive criticism and feedback on what’s going to be in CatWalk’s best interests.

Since our founding, she’s turned her professional skills to help in numerous community engagement, fundraising and information projects, particularly through our magazine. Charlotte says her finest hour was undoubtedly running the 2014 New York Marathon and raising $26,000 for CatWalk. “I didn’t think I had it in me, but as usual, Catriona knew better!” says Charlotte.

Make a difference, today.

Spinal cord injury does not have to be a life sentence. A cure is within reach.
Your support helps to bring that cure closer.
Thank you.