Louise Roberts CPA uses her expert finance skills to help people realise their paralympic sporing dreams.
When Kerryn Harvey fell off her bike in the Adelaide Hills in 2013, she got up, dusted herself off, got a few stitches in her elbow and thought that was that.
Then her injury deteriorated. Doctors diagnosed necrotising fasciitis, an infection caused by rare flesh-eating bacteria, and amputated her right arm and shoulder in an effort to save her life.
“The world nearly lost her,” says Louise Roberts CPA, finance director on the board of START Foundation, the charity Harvey founded after her accident. The organisation provides grants to amputees for prosthetic limbs, limb devices and modified equipment, so they can be active in sport.
START Foundation recognises the importance of physical activity to the health and wellbeing of amputees.
“We work to empower amputees in life, through sport,” explains Roberts, who works as general manager of finance and control at Transdev Australasia during the week.
As START Foundation’s finance director, Roberts helps oversee accounts, reports to the board on the charity’s financial position and works with the board on annual budgets and forecasts.
“I [also] do all of the compliance and reporting requirements for ASIC (Australian Securities and Investments Commission), ACNC (Australian Charities and Not-For-Profits Commission) and all the licences that we hold in various states,” says Roberts, a member of the Victorian Women’s CPA Network.
Roberts’ involvement with START began in 2014, when a former colleague put her in touch with one of the founding directors.
“They were looking for someone with finance skills, so I contacted her and we had a conversation. The work they were doing sounded really exciting and worthwhile.”
In 2015, START Foundation’s first long-distance cycle ride, from Perth to Melbourne, raised money for critical care research at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, where Harvey was treated after her accident.
In 2016-2017, START issued four grants, and they hope to grant six in the 2017-2018 financial year. “On average, grants have been around the A$15,000 mark,” says Roberts.
"The work they were doing sounded really exciting and worthwhile."
Roberts met the foundation’s first grant recipient, Sydneysider Liam Twomey, at a trivia night fundraiser in 2017. Twomey, now 23, lost his right foot to a Ewing sarcoma when he was a child. As a teen, he struggled to adjust to life as an amputee and in his depression turned to drugs and alcohol.
After a stint in rehab, Twomey applied for a START Foundation grant for a new prosthetic limb in 2016.
“He will tell you it changed his life,” Roberts says of Twomey, who is now training to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. “A couple of weeks ago, he was here in Melbourne competing alongside Kerryn in a triathlon.”
Roberts has found working with START an enriching experience. “I’m working with a completely different group of people … all focused on positively impacting people’s lives. It’s really rewarding.”
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About START Foundation
Providing grants to help amputees keep playing sport, START Foundation operates with the support of sponsors, donors and volunteers.
It was founded by triathlete Kerryn Harvey, who lost her arm after a bike accident.
Grant recipients can use funds to purchase prosthetic limbs, limb modifications or other equipment they need to participate in sport.
The organisation is also engaged in fundraising. In May and June, a START Foundation team will take part in the West Coast Epic, a 30-day, 3135km cycling odyssey from Perth to Broome organised by AllTrails.
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