Before he burst onto the NRL scene as the Parramatta Eels’ starting hooker, Reed Mahoney was working full time at a leading school for children with autism (Giant Steps), all the while chasing his footy dreams.
The 20-year-old was this year upgraded to the Eels top 30 squad, but this hasn’t stopped him going back to spend time with the young people at Giant Steps.
“I think it keeps me grounded and to have a level head,” Mahoney said.
“When I first came here I was probably out of routine as a young bloke, but it has changed who I am and what I’m grateful for,” he said.
General Manager of Football Mark O’Neill and Claire Allen from Giant Steps have signed a two-year partnership, which will see Eels players continue to work at the school when they’re not training.
“It means a lot to our players because they’re able to engage at a different level, it’s more than just football,” Mr O’Neill said.
Giant Steps is an independent school, which has been running for 25 years, and it doesn’t charge school fees.
The government covers 50 per cent of its running costs.
Parents, the community and supporters like the Eels, raise the remainder.
“It is just fantastic for us and we really are so grateful for the support,” said Ms Allen.
“I can’t tell you how great it is to have the boys working here; they bring so much to the school, to the kids and so much to the staff and families,” she said.
Mahoney is always pleased with the agreement, and hopes other players will follow and work at the school.
“The engagement you have with the kids and their families is great. You’re only with them for six hours, but their parents are with them for a lot longer,” Mahoney said.
“You’re able to give their parents a break, give back to them, make memories with them and help them with everyday skills; it’s very rewarding,” he said.