DUBAI // A fundraiser in Dubai yesterday raised thousands of dirhams to support Jonathan Beeton, the amateur rugby player on life support in hospital.
Organised in just six days, the Celebrating Studente event at The Sevens Stadium will help Mr Beeton's family cover the expenses of caring for the South African.
Mr Beeton, 27, suffered critical injuries while on a boating trip with friends. He was knocked off balance and fell, hitting his head and neck on a platform at the back of the boat. It left the engineer and star rugby player clinically brain-dead and on life support. Mr Beeton has been known as "Studente" since he first began playing for the Dubai Exiles.
Tickets sales for the fundraising event raised more than Dh37,000. An auction of items - including a signed Studente No.13 shirt worn by Mr Beeton during an Asian Five Nations match and bought by one of his teammates for Dh10,000 - helped to raise more than Dh80,000. The total amount raised on the day was expected to reach about Dh300,000.
"That we are here is of course a testament to a couple of things... first of all it is a testimony to Jon himself," Mike Wolff, the chairman of Dubai Exiles RFC, said to the 250 people who attended. "The response to the current situation within Dubai Exiles and the wider UAE community has been nothing short of astounding."
"The last time I was on stage talking about Jon Beeton was a couple of months ago when it was my pleasure to hand him his club player of the year award to which he was voted for by his fellow players. I remember his broad smile as he came up on the stage slightly embarassed because humility is one of Jon's traits despite an abundance of talent."
Dotted around the banquet hall were framed photographs featuring Mr Beeton doing what he loved best - spending time with his family and friends, playing rugby with his teammates and riding a 4x4.
Mr Beeton's family wrote in the programme: "Jon has always lived his life to the fullest, doing whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted... To persevere until you achieve, making sure you touch as many lives as you can along the way."
Mr Beeton's wife Tammy, 23, expressed gratitude to those who supported her husband. The couple were married just six months ago in South Africa.
"As I'm sure most of you will know Jon does not care about what you wear, what car you drive or how old you are, he will find the best in every person and hold him in his heart forever," she said. "He just seems to have crept into everyone else's heart as well."
Nathalie Jongma, Tammy's best friend, said: "I think the amount of support received shows us the people that Tammy and Jon are, and the love that Jon has given to people."
Lorna Hills, Mr Beeton's neighbour, also spoke of his positive attitude.
"Jon lived life to its fullest and we should all aspire to live like that. I can speak for everyone when I say it will not be the same without him," she said.
The second half of the benefit was a rugby match between the Exiles side and a UAE select XV.
Jason Cook, a 31-year-old from South Africa, said: "The main objective is to raise as much money for for the family and Tammy. A lot of people have pulled through, which is amazing. He is a great bloke."