2022 Victorian Public Healthcare Awards – Amanda Mandie Nomination
Our own Mandy Mandie, executive director Koala Kids Foundation is one of two finalists in the Volunteer Award Category in the 2022 Victorian Public Healthcare Awards.
The award program is hosted by the Victorian Department of Health, providing an opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge the achievements of healthcare workers and public health services.
Mandy was shortlisted from over 196 entries and the winner will be announced on 13 October. Koala Kids congratulates all nominees and finalists.
Koala Kids is no newcomer to the awards having shared the Outstanding Achievement Awards by a Volunteer – Better Care Victoria Innovation Award with Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in the Minister for Health Volunteer Awards in 2019.
Read Mandy’s nomination application below.
Amanda Mandie (aka Mandy Mandie) is a worthy candidate for the 2022 Victorian Public Healthcare Awards. Following her diagnosis with a bipolar disorder in 2005 Mandy chose to explore a lifelong passion for volunteering and search for an opportunity where she could make a difference to the lives of others who were struggling in an aspect of their lives.
Mandy’s search led her to the traumatic world of paediatric cancer where a diagnosis suddenly turns the life of a family upside down and the physical and emotional impact of treatment is massive.
Mandy is the founder and full time volunteer executive director of Koala Kids Foundation. She founded Koala Kids in 2005 with her 13 year old son who wanted to donate $3000 from his Bar Mitzvah to less fortunate children. With the support of a small group of friends, Mandy developed relationships with key healthcare teams in the Children’s Cancer Centres at The Royal Children’s Hospital and Monash Children’s Hospital with view to providing small things for children and adolescents with cancer, like lollipops, coloured pencils and activity books not provided by any other charities. In August 2012 Mandy secured a pro bono office and warehouse space in the Korjo building in Auburn Road, Hawthorn and moved the fast-growing operation from her home.
Koala Kids operated under the auspice of Children’s Cancer Foundation until October 2015 when Mandy sought the support of a board of directors to register Koala Kids Foundation as an independent charity with the ACNC with DGR 1 status with the Australian Taxation Office.
In addition to a wide range of other volunteer roles, Mandy was involved in the establishment of other not for profit organisations including the Melbourne based Snowdome Foundation, accelerating therapies for Australians with blood cancers and End UCD, identifying young Australians who might be susceptible to unexplained cardiac death. In these and other volunteer roles, Mandy has contributed her networking, marketing and business experience to the establishment and growth of many not for profit organisations.
REASON FOR NOMINATION
Through Koala Kids Foundation Amanda Mandie has been able to directly influence the level of care and comfort for children and young people undergoing cancer treatment and their families in Victoria. Mandy works tirelessly to ensure Koala Kids achieves its purpose of providing happy and rich moments for children with cancer and their families. With an abundance of passion and commitment she has mustered the support of an army of volunteers to deliver a long list of programs and activities for children and their families in hospitals and in their homes while undergoing the traumatic cancer treatment journey.
Mandy’s leadership, drive, passion and work ethic is both a model and an inspiration to everyone she meets from corporate volunteers to tertiary and secondary student interns who spend time working with her at Koala Kids. Mandy engages private individual and corporate donors who provide financial, hands-on or in-kind support, a robust team of volunteers and most importantly, she mentors and supports the salaried programs coordinator, who commenced with Koala Kids as an 18 year old intern five years ago. Mandy engages and inspires volunteers of all ages and from all socio-economic groups. She embraces people from all walks of life, different religions and cultural backgrounds and has the ability to make everyone feel appreciated and valued.
During the pandemic, Mandy was unrelenting in her determination to continue to deliver on Koala Kids’ purpose, despite office closures and lack of access to children and their families in hospitals. While Koala Kids was unable to provide resources directly to the hospitals for distribution to children and their families, Mandy moved Koala Kids’ distribution centre to the garage in her family’s home and she and her family, together with the programs coordinator and other volunteers when restrictions permitted, worked tirelessly to provide resources and support (including catered meals as a treat) to the families on Koala Kids data base in their homes all over Victoria.
Koala Kids relies primarily on volunteers to deliver its mission and Mandy often demonstrates her ability to go “above and beyond”. When volunteers aren’t available, as was often the case throughout the pandemic period, Mandy assumed different roles to ensure families were supported. This included packing LEGO and a range toys and puzzles, making craft packs, packing ingredients for online cooking or science sessions, addressing boxes, delivering meals etc. Mandy is always willing to do whatever it takes and never loses sight of the purpose of Koala Kids.
Families often post on social media or email Koala Kids thanking Mandy for her special care, thoughtfulness and sensitivity to their needs. Without hesitation she happily picks up the phone to chat to a parent with a child with a new diagnosis, giving them an ear, expressing warm wishes and offering practical support. At the same time she will serve lunch and make teas and coffees for visiting volunteers and stakeholders, pack boxes and sort consignments. No task is too menial or unimportant and Mandy always leads by example.
BENEFITS TO THE COMMUNITY
Amanda is committed to realising Koala Kids’ vision to touch every child and young person during cancer treatment in Victoria and to working with the team of volunteers to provide small things that make a difference to children and young people during cancer treatment, their families and healthcare team. And, with tireless passion and energy, Mandy encourages everyone with whom she volunteers to embrace Koala Kids values of purposeful, collaboration, empathy, respect, happiness and passion.
Mandy works closely with most of the wards in the major treatment hospitals - The Royal Children’s Hospital, Monash Children’s Hospital, the paediatric and adolescent and young adults teams at Peter Mac Cancer Centre plus nine major hospitals around regional Victoria – to provide quality therapeutic and other resources to comfort, distract and entertain young patients from the pain and trauma associated with paediatric cancer and other chronic illnesses. Parents often arrive ill-equipped for sudden, and often lengthy hospital stays and they are all supported by Mandy and the Koala Kids team.
Thanks to Mandy’s gentle and persuasive art of negotiation, all resources and activities are of the highest quality and are either donated, provided at cost or heavily discounted.
Since 2005, the ongoing provision of resources and programs to the hospitals has been enabled by Mandy’s ability to continuously attract and recruit a diverse and enthusiastic group of dedicated volunteers, together with like-minded business partners, educators, artists, entertainers, authors and musicians who she inspires to help support her passionate and important cause.
Mandy’s fundraising skills are renowned and her ability to attract high profile donors from philanthropic sources and the corporate world are the envy of many not for profit organisations. Speaking engagements and events have raised over $200,000 in the past two years alone.
Due to Mandy’s dedicated, ‘can-do’ attitude and tireless work ethic, what began as a small program is now a dynamic and meaningful independent registered not for profit organisation. Since its inception, Koala Kids has made a positive difference to the lives of around 1700 young people in cancer treatment in Victoria each year. In addition to the 40 plus hours she devotes to Koala Kids each week she is willing to help other fundraising projects where she can.
Since 2009, Mandy has also served the community in a volunteer capacity as founding member and fundraising committee member of Snowdome Foundation, a charitable trust with the key objective of raising funds for the purpose of accelerating the availability of new therapies to Australians with blood cancer. In 2012 Mandy led a group of volunteers in a Dance Attack on Breast Cancer and in 2016 she was a founding member of the Ross Dennerstein Foundation, in memory of the fit and healthy pilot son of a close friend who died suddenly from an unexplained cardiac arrest. Now known as End UCD, the charity raises funds to research the causes and prevention of unexplained cardiac deaths in Australians under the age of 50.
A larger than life personality but a quiet achiever, Mandy’s was awarded an
OAM in in 2021 in the Australia Day honours for her commitment to charitable causes. She remains tireless in her endeavours to contribute to the community in her volunteer capacity, helping children and young people and their families endure their cancer journey.
Mandy is a generous and kind-hearted person whose dedication to philanthropy has assisted countless families as they deal with the agony of children with cancer. She has gathered around her a band of dedicated volunteers whom she inspires by her selflessness dedication.
INNOVATION AND EXCELLENCE
Amanda has demonstrated creative and innovative methods by organically pivoting Koala Kids support of children with cancer and their families in hospitals to their homes. When Koala Kids was prevented from visiting the families in the hospitals, Mandy proved her agility by reaching out to families via social workers and other health carers, electronically and via word of mouth to safely register their details by QR code on a data base, Koala Kids happy base. Koala Kids has grown a data base of more than 280 families in a little over two years and communicates with them each month, offering a range of therapeutic items and fun and creative activities by email and on Zoom.
As families have become more comfortable participating in activities on Zoom they have joined the fun from their homes and in with their children in hospitals.
In collaborating with another not for profit Koala Kids hosts Zoom parties for young children in hospital, with entertainment in the form of song and dance provided by volunteers in superhero costumes. Koala Kids also provides a party box for each family on the cancer ward on the day of the party with a QR code to log onto and participate in the party.
In collaboration with Children’s Cancer Foundation (CCF), Mandy initiated an alliance of paediatric oncology not for profit organisations that provide support to children and young people with cancer and their families. The alliance meets monthly to hear different speakers from the paediatric oncology health space. Under Mandy’s direction Koala Kids is also working closely with CCF to create a website linking every program and activity available to families during and post their child’s treatment to the website of the providing organisation.
Mandy regularly gathers healthcare managers from different hospitals online to meet and discuss her ideas and initiatives and encourage discussion between hospitals that they have not previously enjoyed.
Mandy regularly demonstrates the best possible care and support to parents and carers of children and young people during cancer treatment by happily picking up the phone and calling them to discuss their needs and providing Koala Kids support or directing them to where they can get it.
She personally signs cards and adds them to cartons headed for private homes and hospitals and encourages Koala Kids volunteers and students to follow her initiative.
She remains sensitive to the needs of individuals, volunteers, nurses, children and young people and will often “drop everything” to respond to a request for a child or young person in treatment quickly.
Her commitment to procuring quality items and resources is reflected in her determination not to accept every in-kind donation that is offered to Koala Kids. She literally searches the world for the best supply source at the best price.
With the support of a passionate, supportive and dedicated board and executive, Mandy is determined to ensure that Koala Kids is set up for longevity long after she retires, so all her excellent work continues and is not in vain.