Jaden has achieved so much in his young years and has the ambition to one day represent New Zealand at the Paralympics in wheelchair track racing.

Jaden was born in Auckland, New Zealand in May of 2004, and spent his first month at Starship Children’s Hospital. He lives with Spina Bifida and a rare condition called VATER Association. These diagnoses bring a wide range of medical conditions and already at 18 years of age he has undergone 31 major surgeries. Hospital visits, procedures, therapy, and countless appointments are just a regular part of Jaden’s life, but that hasn’t prevented him from pursuing an incredible life well beyond the hospital bed. He may rely on a wheelchair to get around, but he has a competitive and athletic drive that rivals any young athlete who dreams of representing their country on the world stage.

Jaden lives life with an abundance of positivity, generosity and determination, aspiring to be an inspirational speaker and change-maker. Through sharing his story, he hopes to inspire all young people to follow their dreams and stand up for what they believe in; and he would love to influence policymakers and organisations to ensure those with disabilities have their voices heard.

In Jaden’s first blog, we find out what he’s been up to over the holiday period and what is in store for him in 2023!

“Due to being a competitive athlete, a university student, and an active member of several community committees, it can be quite hard to get some time in my schedule for relaxing and enjoying more of the simple things. However, this Christmas and New Year’s, I managed to take a break and enjoyed some downtime.

My family and I headed to Turangi for Christmas, as we have been doing for many years.  My Omi lives there, right by the world-famous Tongariro River. My Opa, who sadly passed away last year, was, amongst many things, a talented fisherman. He bought me my first rod and taught me how to fish. Catching rainbow trout at the Tongariro Trout Centre or on Lake Taupo was always a highlight, and I will cherish those memories forever. While I don’t fish as much now, I do love to be in this part of the country, going on long walks by the river and experiencing nature at its finest.

Christmas Day was a lot of fun: opening presents, going on walks, eating too much food, and celebrating Christmas dinner with close family and friends. Spending quality time with family and friends in Turangi made for an epic time over the Christmas break, reminiscing about this past year and sharing goals and dreams for next year, but also remembering those who are no longer with us.

While in Turangi, I did manage to sneak in a few training sessions. The long flat roads allowed me to do some road training while I was down there. It was nice to push my chair while also experiencing the amazing views of mountains and hills nearby, instead of on the track or in my garage! As we are in the middle of track season and especially as I am headed to Australia this month, it is essential I keep up with my training.

For New Year’s Eve, we were lucky enough to go to celebrate with friends who we get together with most years. Spending time with close friends, having lots of laughs and chats, looking back on the successes of 2022, and sharing our New Year’s resolutions/goals, made for an awesome way to start 2023.

Life always gives us ups and downs, and 2022 was no different. But instead of dwelling on the down times, I look back on a year that was filled with so many positives and good times, such as competing in my first international event at the Australian Athletics Champs where I managed to get a bronze medal in the 400m, successfully completing my first year of university, representing the I.Lead National committee at the International Initiative for Disability Leadership in Christchurch and so much more.

I feel lucky to be surrounded by so many people who support me in my passions and encourage me to make the most of opportunities. Whether it be in my sports, advocacy roles, studies, connections with people and organizations, and many other interests and passions, I am thankful for the amazing life I have.

Now, as we plan for a new year, I look forward to another busy year of university, continuing to push myself every semester, more international competition in my wheelchair racing, including potentially going to Switzerland to compete in May and more work representing the voices of young disabled New Zealanders in various aspects of life. I hope that I can help to amplify disability voices and create more opportunities for people with disabilities to succeed in all aspects of life. Most importantly, spending quality time with friends and family who make life special is a huge priority.

I am excited to become an official Medifab Ambassador beginning this year. It is an honour to represent an amazing New Zealand-based company that designs state-of-the-art innovative technology for special needs equipment. I look forward to our journey ahead and thank them for their support in allowing me to reach my goals in sports and beyond.

Happy 2023 everyone!”