Anitta Stallwood with her elephant beanie … disabilities such as spina bifida and hydrocephalus are often the “elephants in the room”, something which Anitta hopes to change

July 22, 2021

Don’t be alarmed if you see a bunch of people heading off down the South Burnett Rail Trail early on Sunday morning wearing onesies … there’s a good reason (and it’s not just the cold weather!)

Kingaroy resident Anitta Stallwood has organised the inaugural “SBH Qld Wheel & Walk In The Roy” along the rail trail from Youngman Street, Kingaroy, to Meiers Road and back.

It’s only a short distance (about 5km) as some of the people taking part in the fundraiser will have a disability, although the all-abilities event is open to everyone.

Many people will remember Anitta from when she was working alongside her sister Leanne in a Kingaroy real estate agency.

What they probably didn’t realise then was that Anitta was born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus.

These conditions have made life tough for her at times, made even more so because so many people don’t understand what these complex conditions actually are.

Anitta aims to change this by raising awareness with the “Wheel & Walk”, which will coincide with similar events organised to assist Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Qld (SBH Qld) in Brisbane and Rockhampton.

Spina bifida is a birth defect that can affect the spinal cord and brain.

During the first month of pregnancy, a special set of cells forms in the foetus called the “neural tube”.  The top of this tube becomes the brain and the remainder becomes the spinal cord.

In spina bifida, this neural tube does not close all the way causing disabilities that range from mild to very severe.

Babies born with spina bifida sometimes also have a condition called hydrocephalus, which is a build-up of spinal fluid surrounding the brain. This puts pressure on the brain and can cause both physical and cognitive damage.

Anitta’s spina bifida was recognised at birth but the hydrocephalus was not diagnosed until six months later.

The solution was a then-new technology … the insertion of two stents inside her head to drain away the excess fluid; the first was inserted when she was six months old and the second when she was aged six. They are both still in place, and still working!

The spina bifida and hydrocephalus have left Anitta with some physical disabilities, including a loss of some fine motor skills. 

Add in high-functioning autism, a sensitivity to loud sounds and bright lights, and anxiety, and it’s no surprise Anitta suffered a “situational crisis” (what most people would call a “nervous breakdown”) in 2018.

“My mind, my body, my soul just stopped working,” she said.

These days, she’s on the other side of that breakdown after seeking professional help.

The assistance of two NDIS helpers for 10 hours a week has also made a big difference to her life, and allowed her to start thinking again about going back to work.

She has worked previously for SBH Qld as a “peer mentor”, assisting other people with similar health conditions, however she is now applying for her own NDIS Provider registration so she can work as a peer mentor in her own right.

The extra help provided by the NDIS has also empowered Anitta to organise Sunday’s “Wheel & Walk In The Roy” as a fundraiser for SBH Qld.

She thought the idea of wearing onesies would add some fun to the occasion … but don’t worry if you don’t own one, a beanie will do.

In fact, Anitta herself had no intention of donning a onesie until she mentioned she would do it for $500 at a recent Kingaroy Chamber of Commerce and Industry meet’n’greet.

Member for Nanango Deb Frecklington immediately stumped up the cash, and Anitta had to find herself a onesie!

So far, Anitta has raised $3700 cash and has been donated about $1500 worth of raffle and other prizes.

There will be prizes for the first walker, first wheelchair user and first runner (sorry, no pushbikes but you can walk your dog …)

Ninety-three people have registered so far to take part.

Registrations can be made online or from 7:45am on the day at the Rail Trail entrance beside Liberty Fuel in Youngman Street, Kingaroy.

Kingaroy Rotary will be holding a barbecue for participants at the end of the event, and there’ll also be a coffee van and face-painting.

Anitta hopes the inaugural “Wheel & Walk In The Roy” will raise between $6000-$7000 for SBH Qld.

The association has 12 adults registered in the local area, from Dalby to Nanango, who either have the conditions or their children do.

Major sponsors for Sunday’s event include Kingaroy Canvas and Camping, Deb Frecklington MP, Stanwell, Emerge Supports and the GTH Group.

Donations in kind have come from quilters Esther Roberts and Joy Heard, RBM Industrial Bags, Crowies Paints, Star Tyrepower Kingaroy, CROW-FM, The Martoo Review, Windmill Bakery, Kingaroy Toyworld, SG’s Barber Lounge & Hair Designs, Blooms The Chemist, Linard Floral and Bridal Centre, Bunnings Kingaroy, Rosie Schulz, AP Computers, Nichols Printing, Robinson’s News and Gifts, MJJ’s Coffee Service, Kingaroy RSL Club and Kingaroy Rotary.

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