It is with heartfelt sadness that Gavin Varejes learned about his friend and rugby legend Joost van der Westhuizen’s terrible illness in 2011. The legendary scrum-half was diagnosed with the ALS and continues to fight a long and hard battle with the debilitating and, thus far, incurable disease. Joost has a strong backing from Gavin Motor Neuron Disease Varejes and SARLA (The South African Rugby Legends Association). Gavin and SARLA are helping Joost to raise funds for treatment and are giving him the emotional support of having friends that care.
After experiencing the devastating blow of his diagnosis and the gradual decline in motor functions, Joost started empathising with others with the same disease but without the same kind of support he has. He felt the urge to help those that are not receiving adequate assistance and especially those that are not receiving any form of assistance. He founded the J9 Foundation to create opportunities for people and companies to support quality of life programs available for the victims of MND and is making use of his excellent name in the SA sporting industry and his great friends to help those less fortunate than him.
Gavin Varejes & Joost van der Westhuizen
The J9 Foundation currently has eight beneficiaries, some abandoned by their families who were not able to find the strength to support them, some so debilitated that they have lost the ability to speak and some even without the ability to move at all. The main program offers direct services such as providing information, making home visits, guidance for families and counselling. The foundation also provides references to specialist services such as contractors that can assist with wheelchair access to homes once that is required, legal advice and counselling services to the beneficiary and their loved ones and, where possible, financial assistance.