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Canterbury community supports Seb

Registered Master Landscapers from all corners of Canterbury came together on a HELL Pizza-inspired charity project to create five-year-old Seb Turner and his mum Caroline Yardley’s garden of their dreams

Most mothers do not have to send their children hundreds of kilometres away from their homes to specialist hospitals, or lay awake night after night worrying about their survival – but that is exactly what Caroline Yardley has had to do.

Her five-year-old son, Seb Turner, has a rare form of bone marrow failure called aplastic anemia, which means his body doesn’t produce enough new blood cells. One potential cure is a bone marrow transplant. Out of 36 million registered donors, not one person was available, so the only option was immunosuppressant therapy. As Caroline describes, it’s not a simple procedure.

“It annihilates your immune system, then you come home and you’re in isolation for six weeks while your blood cells recover.”

The home that Seb returned to wasn’t exactly what anyone would call a ‘safe haven’, or a fun place for a boy to play.

“We had a pretty dismal outdoor area at home – it wasn’t very safe as there was building debris and nails everywhere, and certainly not somewhere I could leave him to play by himself.”

Luckily, she found out about HELL Pizza’s Satan’s Little Helper (SLH) programme and nominated Seb. It’s a decision that changed his life.

A timely intervention

Caroline asked SLH for help installing a backyard, so an article was placed in NZ Landscaper Magazine calling on Christchurch-based landscapers to get involved. Readylawn managing director Roger Morgan saw it and decided to take action.

“The article about Seb really hit home as I’ve got two boys myself. I was immediately inspired to have my own company lend a hand, but also figured that other Registered Master Landscaper (RML) members would feel the same, and we could do so much more as a community.

“So I brought up Seb’s situation at the next local meet-up, and five minutes later we had everyone on board. It was a such a fantastic outcome!”

Hayden Stark from Xteriorscapes designed a beautiful space before handing over to Peter Greer from Gill Landscapes, who took the bull by the horns – meticulously planning the project and sourcing donated materials from preferred suppliers. Ollie Newman from Onlandscapes was also instrumental in getting the project off the ground.

“We sat down with Caroline and Seb to design a fun, open, playing space, and Seb was pretty excited and had a few pointers for us, such as the sandpit and a nice open grass area,” explains Hayden. “We developed some spaces for outdoor living and capturing the sun, and factored in a few practical and functional items like the raised veggie garden.”

With labour and brain-power committed to the project, Roger says the next challenge was securing donated materials.

“We have some excellent relationships with suppliers around the country and they all jumped on board. It has all come together and hasn’t cost a cent for any materials – it’s been brilliant.”

RML community

Hayden reckons the project shows RML at its strongest, with experts, and in some cases competitors, working together to produce the best outcome possible.

“One of RML’s goals was to have regional meetings to pull landscape contractors together. Everyone working on this project is competing with each other for work, but the social and professional connection between us means everyone has pulled through in this situation. There are no egos, everyone gets on with it.”

Craig Thomas, owner of Greenscapes, agrees: “They’re a good bunch of guys that you can bounce ideas off or work together with on bigger projects.”

Project manager Peter had originally planned for the job to take a month but, despite a lot of moving parts to line up, construction was smashed out over an intense four days. Impressive stuff, especially when you consider the time of the year it falls in.

“Everyone is booked up until 2022 and it’s only October,” says Roger. “So for everyone to fit this in and pull this together is fantastic. An inch of rain on the first day chucked a spanner in the works, but we’ve pulled it off in four days, so we’re pretty stoked.”

A big reason for the rapid turnaround was thanks to companies such as Greenscapes. Craig was willing to sacrifice two employees for the entire four days, and what was meant to be a quick job turned into a multi-level effort.

“We were supposed to just do the mulch, but we ended up doing the raised veggie garden, timber edging, planting and whatever else was needed to make the project work.”

Fun for summer

Everything came together beautifully and this group of Christchurch businesses has changed someone’s life.

“Seb could potentially relapse,” explains his mum. “If he does, he would be able to play outside and have some outside time that we didn’t get before.

“For his mental health, it’ll be amazing. He’s a really social kid, so being able to get outside and potentially socialise with his cousins, as long as they’re healthy, is massive.”

HELL CEO Ben Cumming said he was delighted with the project outcome.

“Satan’s Little Helper was set up to make a difference for young people going through a tough time, so we’re stoked we could do our part for Seb. However, credit has to go to the RML members who drove this project, arranged all the free materials and donated so much time during one of the busiest parts of the year.”


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