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The Warwick & District Junior Rugby League commence their 2016 finals series this Saturday in Stanthorpe with 11 matches on the day.

The preliminary semi-finals will be held in Goondiwindi with Inglewood hosting the Grand Finals on Saturday, September 3.

The WDJRL clubs recently decided to collect and donate all entry fees to all finals matches in 2016 to the “Keeley Spencer Fund”.

Jack Spencer is a past player from the Texas Terriers seniors and was a valued volunteer at Texas Junior Rugby League, who play as a combined team (Millwood) with Inglewood and Millmerran Junior Clubs in the WDJRL.

Jack’s son Declan also played all of his junior footy for Millwood and the Stanthorpe Juniors and recently joined the new Border Bushrangers Under 18s team in the TRL competition in 2016.

The WDJRL recently became aware of the plight of Jack and Susie Spencer’s young daughter Keeley over recent years. Keeley’s health story is detailed below for you to read and understand the heartbreaking circumstances that Keeley and her family have faced in recent years.

The rugby league community in the WDJRL are proudly supporting the “1000 Hundred Ways to Show Keeley & Her Family That We Care” campaign that was recently launched by the small, but vibrant community of Texas by donating their finals series profits.

The purpose of this fundraising request is to help Keeley’s family make ends meet and relieve the financial strain on her parents, Jack and Susie Spencer, so they can optimise their time that they can spend with Keeley. 

Being with her parents is the only way left for Keeley to ease her constant pain and suffering and at 14 years of age, Keeley has reached the end of the line for any further surgical solutions. 

The goal is to raise $100,000 to help alleviate the financial strain of costly medication Keeley needs but also enabling Jack and Susie some breathing space during this incredibly difficult time and for them to know the rugby league community cares.

The Spencer family have not asked for help.  They are quietly battling their circumstances and trying to make ends meet, after both leaving their jobs to be with Keeley.  They run a café and gift shop; “Creek House Café” from a roadside farm house near Texas, which allows Keeley to be with them and Jack sells firewood for extra income.

When Jack and Susie were approached about this fundraiser, they were both overwhelmed that people would want to help and were extremely grateful for any assistance, acknowledging that things are very tough for them. 

The Texas community has supported the Spencer family previously, during Keeley’s medical journey and now hope that the local community, as well as friends, generous strangers and the rugby league community will help reach the target of $100, 000-.  So, when you break down $100,000, it becomes completely possible to achieve if just 1000 people donate $100.

Any donation is welcome, no matter how big or small.  The organising committee have opted to use a compassionate crowdfunding platform – (click here: or search: 1000 Hundred Ways to Show Keeley & Her Family That We Care).

100% of funds donated will go to the Spencers.  If you do not have internet access or prefer to make a donation by cheque, please make out to the “Keeley Spencer Fund” and post to PO Box 81, Texas, QLD, 4385, Australia or direct deposit into:

 Keeley Spencer FundBSB: 084 943             Account number: 789002029

We asked Susie Spencer to document Keeley’s story and have provided it in full below for those who want to learn more.  The photos provided are of a relatively healthy Keeley, at hospital before her operation that went disastrously wrong in 2012 & a more recent photo with her Dad, Jack.


Keeley’s Medical Journey

On the 29 April 2002, Keeley Jewel Spencer was born in Brisbane with congenital heart disease.  She has a very complex cardiac condition & we have been told on many occasions that she is ‘one of a kind’.  She was born with Double Outlet Right Ventricle, several holes in her heart, co-arctation of the Aorta & Dextrocardia.  Effectively she only has half a heart & relies on a single ventricle circulation & her heart is not only on her right side, but her heart & lungs are reversed & back to front.

Keeley had her first open heart surgery when she was four days old at the Prince Charles Hospital in Brisbane with two more open heart surgeries at five months & twelve months of age for further repairs & upgrades which allowed her to grow big enough for major surgery to permanently repair her heart.  Keeley’s fourth open heart surgery at three years old, increased her oxygen saturations to 80% - the highest she had ever known.  She was then able to forget about hospital for a while, & go home to grow big enough to h&le the completion of the fontan procedure.

On the 21 June 2012 Keeley had her fifth open heart surgery & fontan completion at the Mater Childrens Hospital in Brisbane.  A couple of days after the surgery, her right lung collapsed & a CT scan showed a large collection of fluid in her lung cavity.  After more surgery to insert drains we hoped for a recovery however more tests revealed a large tear in her oesophagus which had been caused by a probe during her heart surgery & it was this tear that was drowning her lung. 

We thought it was good news to finally know the cause of the problem but we were devastated to learn that the tear in the oesophagus was unrepairable.  Urgent surgery was undertaken to clean Keeley’s lung & remove part of her rib in order to fit a large drain.  That particular trip to theatre & the night that followed was extremely difficult for us, as we knew it was touch or go, but our tough little girl fought bravely.

More surgery followed, to insert a feeding tube directly into Keeley’s bowel, as she could no longer eat or drink orally & her oesophagus was cut off near the top & brought out the side of her neck, so that everything that she ate/drank/swallowed came out into a bag.  After two months in hospital she was allowed to go home & we returned to Brisbane every two weeks to have her chest drain slowly removed & it finally healed after 5 months.  We got used to feeding entirely via her feeding tube with liquid feed.  Keeley still enjoyed the sensation of oral eating & drinking, it just went into her stoma bag instead of her stomach.  Life continued for another 10 months.  She returned to school for part days, had her 11th birthday & enjoyed life without complaint.

In September 2013 we returned to the Mater for her oesophageal reconstruction.  This was a major operation which involved cutting & closing the oesophagus at the bottom where it joins the stomach & pulling the stomach up through her diaphragm & joining it back to the top where her stoma had been.  Her stomach was now sharing space with her left lung.  The surgery was a success & now Keeley could once again eat & drink orally, although it came with many complications, including Keeley’s abdomen & chest filling with fluid a large hernia & 10 days in intensive care.

In December 2013 her ankles & knees began to show signs of fluid.  In January 2014 she began to have a lot of trouble breathing & her Cardiologist told us she was showing signs of heart failure.  In February 2014 she had an MRI which showed her native oesophagus was very large & seemed to be full of secretions, & was pressing on blood vessels (this was a surprise to us & doctors, as we had been told once it was separated from the other organs it would effectively die).  This combined with having a stomach in her chest was putting a huge strain on her left lung & heart.  Someone with a single ventricle circulation relies on two healthy lungs.  The only solution to give her some relief was to insert a drain through her upper chest directly into her native oesophagus & drain the fluid.  This procedure was done during general anaesthetic in May 2014 & she still has this drain today.  It has given her immense relief & allows her to breathe more comfortably. Her Doctors have no other solutions as her chest can no longer be operated on.

So for the last two years, Keeley has been living this life: 

·           Constant severe oedema in her abdomen, feet & legs

·           Draining the fluid from her native oesophagus twice daily to allow her to breathe

·           Daily nausea & bowel pain

·           Daily back pain from her swollen abdomen

·           Digestive problems

·           Lack of energy

·           Unable to attend school since 2013


Things have certainly changed for our family over the last four years.  Keels certainly has some sad days, but we always try to encourage her to keep positive.  We have both left jobs in the last two years to be there for her, as being with her parents certainly gives her the most comfort.  We take each day as it comes, doing our best to make her as happy as we can & we always have hope for the future.

Thank you so much for your interest & support, Jack & Susan Spencer

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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