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Ben’s the best

By Jake Beleski

[email protected]

Head down to any junior hockey match in Wairarapa on a Saturday morning, or senior match in the afternoon, and chances are you will cross paths with Ben Taylor.

The passionate hockey fan will be pacing the sidelines, helping anyone within range that shows the slightest signs of needing assistance.

Ben is Year 10 at Wairarapa College and picked up supporter of the year last week at the Wairarapa Hockey awards night.

But he is not your average award-winner.

Ben was born with Down Syndrome, but has not let it get in the way of his remarkable contribution to the local hockey community.

His mother, Sandy Taylor, said it was pleasing to see his keen attitude acknowledged on a prestigious stage.

“I’m just pleased that he’s participating and that he plays hockey and is part of a team.

“It’s great that he is recognised as a valuable member of the hockey community and that his enthusiasm is appreciated.”

Ben lives fully independently in the Waicol hostel, and mainstreaming at the school had proved invaluable for himself and the students around him, she said.

“Definitely for us his integration into the hostel has helped him hugely.

“He’s such a well-liked kid and he’s fitted in there seamlessly – the transition was amazing and he’s been totally accepted.”

Ben never had to look far for inspiration to get involved with hockey, with the sport being a huge part of the family.

His parents, Sandy and Hamish, are both respected hockey personalities in the Wairarapa community, and his siblings Morgan, Wills and Maddie are all esteemed hockey players in their own right.

Supporting his siblings was always a highlight for Ben, but he was also a keen player himself, Sandy said.

“In a funny kind of way Ben has been a part of all those teams that he has supported.

“He plays in the Waicol 4th XI as well – he’s a bit of a goal-scorer for them.”

As well as being a hockey enthusiast, Ben enjoys farming, hunting, horses and all other sports.

He even released his own cookbook titled ‘Taylormade Tucker’, and donated some of the proceeds towards iPads for Tinui School.

In the book are a colourful mixture of recipes alongside entertaining anecdotes from Ben’s life.

He was extremely proud of the book, Sandy said.

“We saw it as his way to give back. He’s really proud of his cookbook – it’s kind of his childhood story and his journey.”

Kelly Govan, executive officer at Wairarapa Hockey, praised Ben’s contribution to the sport.

“He’s just a happy character – everyone knows him and he’s a friendly young man who gets on with everybody and is always helpful.

“From Saturday morning 6-a-side stuff, to supporting the Dalefield premier team and the Wairarapa College first XI, he’s always there to help with water bottles, services at halftime and anything else that is needed.”

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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