By David Polkinghorne, Sydney Morning Herald
There’s not many things Ricky Stuart’s passionate about outside of rugby league.
His passion for that is plain to see whenever he’s on the sidelines coaching his beloved Green Machine.
But the Canberra Raiders coach’s foundation is one of those things.
The Ricky Stuart Foundation is about three months from opening their second respite home in Canberra, Emma Ruby House, and this one will hold a special place in his heart as it’s named after his daughter Emma.
Stuart will take time out of his hectic pre-season schedule for his foundation’s annual golf day at Royal Canberra on Monday, as the clock ticks down towards the Raiders’ round-one clash against the Gold Coast Titans on March 11.
Stuart’s spent the last four months immersed in getting the Green Machine ready for a hoped-for return to the NRL finals.
But he’ll take time out from that for one of his other passions.
“I’m passionate about the foundation. I don’t have many interests outside of rugby league, but the foundation is something I’m very passionate about and I want to keep driving it because I know it’s been successful and it helps a lot of other people,” Stuart said.
While the second respite house still looks like a “construction site”, it won’t be long before it opens and starts helping Canberra families in need.
The first one was named to promote the name of Stuart’s foundation, but this one will be named after the young woman who started it all – his daughter.
Emma has autism and it’s because of her the foundation was born.
Having this respite home named in her honour was one of the few things Stuart has asked of the ACT government, who work with the foundation to help make Stuart’s vision a reality.
“It’s only three months away, but it just goes to show how much work they do in that time … within three to four months we’ll have our second home,” Stuart said.
“We named the first one just to try and keep the foundation’s name out there. But this is where it all started, for my daughter Emma, and it’s the only thing I’ve ever asked for my foundation from a personal point of view, is asking the government if we could name it after my daughter.
“I felt that was very fitting in the sense that the whole foundation idea and concept came about because of Emma. She’s the one who started it all and I feel like she’s giving her little bit back to Canberra and the children who are in her situation as well.”
Stuart takes pride in knowing the foundation was helping make Canberra a better place.
He’s happy to use his profile to help the parents and siblings of children living with a disability, by adding to Canberra’s existing respite homes.
Stuart emphasised the importance of everyone involved in the process – event if it was just “hitting a golf ball around and enjoying a nice dinner” – and said the beauty was they could physically see the good they were doing as the homes got built.
But will he start work on a third home once Emma Ruby House has been built? That’s yet to be finalised.
“Haven’t got any plans for a third project as of yet, I’ve got a couple of ideas but they’re things I run through the government because of their support, run through my board to see if it’s achievable,” he said.
“Seven years if I was talking to you and said within seven years all these wonderful people and the foundation we’ll have two respite homes up and running in seven years people would’ve thought I was unrealistic and had too high of a goal to achieve.
“That in itself makes me very proud.”
Ricky Stuart is exclusively managed by The Fordham Company.