Life

Game on for Pokémon player as his web appeal pays off

For one computer-games fanatic with a debilitating health condition, a trip to compete in the World Pokémon Games in San Francisco will be both a challenge and a dream come true. Jono Robus's mum Val told Joanne Sweeney how it's all come about

Jono Robus and his mum Val who will be travelling to San Francisco for the 2016 World Pokemon Championships in August
Joanne Sweeney

SOME parents fret about their children spending hours every day playing computer games but for one mother, her son’s obsession with Pokémon has been his lifeline.

Val Robus will be as proud as punch when her eldest son Jono competes in the 2016 World Pokémon Games in San Francisco later this summer as she knows that it's a major achievement and challenge for him – both competitively and physically.

Jono (23) was born with scoliosis and kyphosis which results in a debilitating curvature of the spine both internally and externally.

The kyphosis makes Jono’s spine curve outwards, hunching him over, while the scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine.

The Sligo man also has Asperger's Syndrome which makes it different for him to interact socially well with people.

While it was a dream come true for Jono and his family when they found out that he had accumulated enough points to gain a place to compete against 100 of the world’s best players, the cost of the trip seem prohibitive.

But just weeks ago, Val created a fundraising web appeal and now has over €5,000 to help towards the cost of the flights and accommodation.

“Due to his health he cannot travel alone so I needed to go with Jono. I’ve just been able to book our flights from Dublin and to book our hotel for seven nights which is in the same hotel as the competition will be held in August,” said Val.

“I had no idea that San Francisco is one of the most expensive places in the world to stay so my hotel booking is only provisional at the moment. Our family are so proud and happy to know that Jono will be able to compete and the fact that it was made possible by some many generous people from north and south is just so amazing. We are very thankful.

“No matter if Jono does not win anything, he’s won by the fact that he has made it over to the US and to compete at this level.”

For the uninitiated, Pokémon is a computer game based on creatures of all shapes and sizes that live in the wild or alongside humans. Pokémon are raised and commanded by their owners called Trainers.

Some parents may remember it from the television animation show that was popular in the 1990s, along with their children collecting game cards.

Life has been challenging for Jono and his family – dad Andy and sister Lucy (20) – over the years. At one point his curvature was so bad that his back was 80 per cent hunched over, which impacted on his breathing.

Despite successfully going through a major operation in 2009 when he had titanium rods inserted from his hip bone up to his shoulders to correct the curvature, his physical condition resulted in him having to leave school earlier than normal.

He is unable to work now as well as he gets tired very easily and needs to rest. But since he was given a Game Boy Color console by his parents when he was aged around seven, Jono found he was good at Pokémon and was able to communicate easily with other young, like-minded people.

“Jono has made a lot of friends online from playing Pokémon. In fact, one of his friends from Dublin is also going to compete so he will have company.

“I’m slightly worried about how the flight will affect him as although after his operation he was able to walk up mountains, he gets tired more easily now with any physical activity.

“He might need another operation in the future which could help with this.”

Jono is also very thankful for the support he has received over the past few weeks, with even offers of help from Irish people living in San Francisco when he arrives to compete from August 19 -21.

He recently posted on his Facebook page: "Thank you all so much for your kind support, donations, comments and everything in between, without all of this and the Gofundme page my Mum made, my Mum wouldn't be able to go to San Francisco with me for the Pokémon World Championships.

"The amount of good emotions I went through for the past seven days was crazy and I don't want that to end for a while."

:: To donate go to www.gofundme.com/25nqdw8c

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