Kristyn lost her life to a rare neurodegenerative disease in February
Kristyn lost her life to a rare neurodegenerative disease in February

Daughter’s death inspires a care revolution

JUST months after losing his disabled daughter to a rare neurodegenerative disease at only 31, Greg O'Donnell has turned his devastation into determination.

The Gold Coast developer, whose wife suffers from the same genetic disease, has begun building new hi-tech accessible homes for the disabled in his daughter Kristyn's honour.

A high achiever and much-loved schoolteacher, Kristyn succumbed to the rare but hereditary disease, spinocerebellar ataxia 7, in February.

The disease, which affects motor-neurological skills and sight, has also left her mother Lynn confined to a wheelchair.

But Mr O'Donnell is determined Kristyn's legacy will live on, and his selflessness has earned him a Pride of Australia nomination.

He is business development manager for Brisbane-based disability housing specialists SDA Property Solutions, which is putting the finishing touches to the first of its Kristyn O'Donnell-model display homes at Gainsborough Greens on the northern Gold Coast.

The state-of-the-art homes will boast adjustable benches, sink and cooktops and fully automated doors, windows, lighting and airconditioning - all controlled from an iPad attached to residents' wheelchairs.

Due for completion in November, three-bedroom homes also feature separate accommodation for a 24-hour carer.

Greg O'Donnell is building hi-tech accessible homes for the disabled in honour of his late daughter Kristyn. Picture: Russell Shakespeare
Greg O'Donnell is building hi-tech accessible homes for the disabled in honour of his late daughter Kristyn. Picture: Russell Shakespeare

Mr O'Donnell said caring for his wife and daughter had given him a unique insight into the living needs of the disabled.

"It's given me an understanding and a compassion for anyone who has a loved one with a disability, because I'm familiar with the many challenges and obstacles they face," he said.

"We want to see fewer people with a disability living in old, run-down and outdated housing or nursing homes."

Mr O'Donnell said after her diagnosis, Kristyn had completed a double degree and became a teacher while also doing volunteer work and coaching junior basketball.

"She continued to inspire and motivate those living with disability until her passing," he said.

"It's her passion and zest for life that inspired me to make a difference in the disabled community."

Now in their 15th year, the Pride of Australia awards seek to unearth and honour ordinary Australians who make an extraordinary contribution to communities.

News Corp Australia, publisher of The Courier-Mail, is partnering with Australia Post and Seven News to stage the 2019 awards.

Nominations are open at prideofaustralia.com.au until October 21.