Community spirit is alive and well in Camden, with residents and local businesses - including the Camden Valley Inn and PNP Constructions - orchestrating a week-long fundraising campaign to catapult a hometown hero onto the international stage.
Evan Wulff, 19, has been tendered a dream opportunity to represent Australia in the Under-18 Men’s Softball World Cup in Mexico.
His journey, which has included both achievement and adversity, has resonated deeply within the Camden community. Having dedicated himself to the game from age eight, a significant setback in 2018 - which saw Evan hospitalised for three months due to severe burn injuries - failed to dampen his resolve.
His undeterred dedication helped him make a triumphant return to the sport, culminating in his selection for the national team just two years post-recovery. Now, thanks to the incredible fundraising efforts of the community - amassing an amazing $15,000 - he's ready to walk out on the world stage.
“Having the robust support of the Camden Valley Inn and our incredible community has been instrumental in turning my dreams into reality," Evan said.
"The anticipation of competing in Mexico is thrilling, and I’m immensely thankful for every contribution that has made this possible.”
Leading the local fundraising charge, the Camden Valley Inn not only created a GoFundMe Page but also introduced 'travel tip jars' at the bar, pledging a dollar from every chicken schnitzel sale — Evan’s favourite dish — towards funding his journey.
Reflecting on the campaign’s success, Kayla Seeney, General Manager of Camden Valley Inn, said: “Being a part of Evan’s journey towards the Men’s Softball World Cup has been profoundly rewarding. Witnessing the community unite to support one of its promising talents has been a heartwarming experience.”
When Co-Founders of PNP Constructions, Marcus and Eva Pavlakis, heard about Evan’s story, they quickly jumped on board. As Camden’s Local Business of the Year and leading NDIS Home Modification Experts, their offer to match the current fundraising effort dollar for dollar has played a significant role in helping Evan reach his goal.
“We were impressed by his passion and determination," said Marcus.
"As a local business leader and member of the community, we believe in supporting the next generation and helping our youth achieve their goals and dreams. This is an incredible opportunity for Evan. We wish him and the team every success in Mexico and hope he brings home the Gold."
Evan, now gearing up to don the Junior Steelers' colours, will unite with his teammates in Australia in early November for preliminary training and warm-up matches. From there, they'll embark on their journey to Mexico for final preparations and the World Cup event, taking place on November 11-19.
Placed in Group A, Australia will come up against Canada, Colombia, Czechia, Singapore and the host nation. Their first match will be against Singapore on November 12.