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#HAPPYHELPSINCANCERTREATMENT

An update from Koala Kids during the COVID-19 Outbreak

The current health crisis is posing as a stressful time, especially for families who have children with cancer.  Families have never been more isolated than they are now. Visitors have been restricted with neither siblings nor extended family permitted in some wards.  Each of the not-for-profits have suspended their in hospital activities and there are no longer group sessions with art and music therapists and educators.

We are maintaining close contact with our colleagues in the Children’s Cancer Centres and other hospitals with whom we work, discussing how we can alleviate some of their anxiety, by providing activities and other resources for children in treatment. We are also cognisant of the added stress for the staff and are keeping them in our sites as we identify wellness and mindfulness items that can help during roster changes etc.

Now, more than ever #WEBELIEVEHAPPYHELPS

We are making every effort to help families raise their spirits. We have found and will continue to look for more happy things for the kids to do, distractions that we can provide remotely while our volunteers are physically unable to facilitate activities in the hospitals. Whilst we have made changes to our operation, we remain as committed as ever to our vision, to touch every child and young person during cancer treatment.

If your child is currently undergoing cancer treatment at one of the treatment hospitals we support, we will continue to provide most of the small things that you are used to enjoying.

We have already sent in some new resources for hospital staff  to distribute to children and their families like LEGO, craft activities, puzzles, books etc. Comfort First, art, music and play therapists are no longer able to sanitise and re-use resources so we are delivering a large order of pencils, markers, colouring books, paint and paint palettes etc. which can be given to each child after their therapy session.

If your child is currently in-treatment at The Royal Children’s Hospital or Monash Children’s Hospital and whilst our volunteers are unable to attend, we have introduced coffee and food vouchers for the hospital cafes so you can stretch your legs, grab a coffee or two and a toasted sandwich.

If you are at The Royal Children’s Hospital, please email us happyhelps@koalakids.org.au and we will email you an electronic voucher for Sandrock Cafe.

If you are at Monash Children’s Hospital, please see staff at The Reef who will issue you with a voucher for the cafe.

We will continue to send craft and activity sets to the hospitals and are very happy to send things directly to families either at home or in temporary accommodation.  We are aware of so many more families isolated in their homes because of the threat of COVID-19 and understand that their isolation will be further compounded when siblings are home from school, leading up to and during the school holidays.

We are inviting families to  email us at happyhelps@koalakids.org.au for specific items like iTunes Card to purchase a movie, activities for specific age group etc, or for general things to keep you and your kids busy. We are also keen to hear if  you have other ideas as to how we can support families and what might be working for your family that others might enjoy.

Please continue to visit our Facebook page facebook.com/koalakids where we will post virtual experiences and other online creative and educational resources that you can access without cost.

Assuring you of our continued support.

During this time, we will continue to post as many happy stories as we can on our social media to help lift spirits #webelievehappyhelps

 

12 DAYS OF KOALA KIDS CHRISTMAS

This December we believe we’ve touched more people in hospitals than we’ve touched any other Christmas! More children, adolescents and young adults undergoing cancer treatment, more families travelling the hellish paediatric cancer journey and more staff who dedicate their working lives to caring for these children and young people and their families.

Around 100 gingerbread houses were decorated by families in the Children’s Cancer Centre, families at Little Big Camp, adolescents at Monash Children’s Cancer Centre, children undergoing radiotherapy at Peter Mac and young people at The Alfred Hospital.

More than 1,875 LEGO figures were made from 75 Advent activity sets by children, young people and their families each morning in hospital.

 

100s of Panettone and Christmas puddings were delivered to nursing and other hospital teams for Christmas Eve

 

750 purses filled with L’Oreal make-up were distributed directly to staff involved in cancer treatment and for adolescents and young adults during treatment

 

Over 1000 Santa hats, reindeer ears and novelty head boppers were distributed

 

1,000 Koala gingerbread cookies with red iced Santa hats

 

Over 1000 Christmas craft kits were distributed for children and young people to decorate their hospital room

 

Christmas trees, coloured baubles and too many metres of coloured tinsel and flashing lights to count, to decorate over 30 departments in 15 hospitals

More than six hundred thoughtfully donated and carefully wrapped Christmas gifts for children and young people who had treatments as outpatients and others who had to spend Christmas in hospital

 

12 volunteers prepared and cooked 75 fresh, hot pizzas carefully ordered and eaten by the families and staff in the Children’s Cancer Centre on Christmas Eve

 

39 volunteers spent a total of 72 hours wrapping gifts for donations at Big W South Yarra

 

37 volunteers enjoyed dinner together – representing 400 others who volunteer their time, energy and passion to develop and deliver Koala Kids programs and activities.

 

We send our warmest thanks to the hundreds of people and organisations who make up Koala Kids so we can continue to provide small things that make a difference to the lives of children and young people undergoing cancer treatment all year.

With special thanks to the following people and companies for their support at Christmas and throughout the year

THE AUSTRALIAN WOMEN’S WEEKLY

EVERYDAY SUPERHEROES

Click the arrows below to read the stories of three superheroes and their families as featured in the May 2019, Australian Women’s Weekly.

PETER MAC RADIOTHERAPY MASKS

Children and young people undergoing radiotherapy now have the opportunity to have a lasting memory from their mask.  Peter Mac and Koala Kids volunteer artists with the support of Koala Kids to provide all of the resources, are creating the most amazing pieces of art in response to patient briefs or themes.
Joanna Weir is very excited at the prospect of working with other artists to create such special memories in response to the patients’ requests.

During daily radiotherapy treatment, it is necessary to ensure that the patient will be in exactly the same position every day. Patients getting radiation to the head and neck area may need a mask to make it easier for a patient to stay still, to help keep the head from moving so that the patient is in the exact same position for each treatment and so any markings can be drawn on the mask, not their skin.

All patient identifications and marks are removed from the mask at the end of treatment. Patients have the option to keep their mask. Koala Kids is providing the materials to transform children’s’ and young peoples’ masks into works of art to keep as special memorabilia.

SIENA’S FUNDRAISING STORY

Siena Sands is turning 10 in a few weeks.

Siena is fundraising for Koala Kids by cutting her beautiful, long, brown brown hair to above her shoulders, at least 25 cms and possibly more. She plans to cut her hair the day before her 10th birthday.

In August Siena’s great aunt passed away from breast cancer. Siena was aware of how important her great aunt’s wig was to her as she had always loved her beautiful hair.

Siena had thought about how special it would be to donate her own hair to someone who is undergoing cancer treatment.  Siena’s mother told us that Siena has always loved her beautiful long hair and had never wanted to cut it, not even trim it. This was until she realised she could cut and donate her hair and that it could be made into a wig for someone who would love her hair as much as she does.

Siena is a very sweet fun loving girl.  She was really moved by the support Koala Kids provides children undergoing cancer treatment and the happiness Koala Kids provides the children and their families. As difficult as it had been watching her aunty with cancer, she couldn’t imagine the impact on a family when a child has cancer.

Siena had watched children at St Vincents de Paul and neighbours undergoing cancer treatment. Cutting her hair was not only going to provide someone with a wig of beautiful hair but she chose to raise money for Koala Kids too, for children with cancer.

Koala Kids thanks and congratulates Siena on such a selfless initiative and like her family and friends are incredibly proud of her. If you wish to support Siena’s generous initiative, you can do so here

DELOITTE ANNUAL IMPACT DAY 2018

Koala Kids hosted 21 volunteers as part of Deloitte Australia’s annual Impact Day. The team enjoyed a range of activities in our office, packing resources to be sent to regional hospitals, assembling Koala Kids creative kits as well as preparing orange donation boxes headed for more than 55 BP stores across Victoria.

During the morning, another group of volunteers toured Monash Children’s Hospital’s Children’s Cancer Centre whilst another group hosted a morning tea and children’s activities for families in the Children’s Cancer Centre at The Royal Children’s Hospital.

Everyone reunited for a delicious lunch back at the office provided by Treat Catering, sharing their hospital experiences.

Each year, every Deloitte around the world (Deloitte are in more than 50 countries) chooses one day to volunteer in the workplace. each year, thousands of Deloitte Staff down their usual work tools to make a positive contribution to the community. For the past three years, Koala Kids has welcomed a group to volunteer for the day. This year,

Koala Kids looks forward to having many of the Deloitte volunteers join us again for other volunteering opportunities throughout the year.

KOALA KIDS INTERN PROGRAM

Chiara Zagame joined Koala Kids last month for a 10 week internship. Chiara is completing her internship as part of her one year events diploma at William Angliss Institute.  She has quickly endeared herself to our Monday team and is enjoying learning about all of the different aspects of our organization, not just events.

Koala Kids welcomes tertiary students looking for formal and informal internships.  Chiara is our fifth William Angliss intern. Earlier this year Amanda Ang worked with us for a semester for her final subject in her arts degree majoring in psychology at Melbourne University.  Harry and Antony came to us via Global Training and Recruitment Solutions (GTRS) – each gained experience in human resources assisting us with our volunteer management.

HAPPY WEEKENDS AT THE ROYAL CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL

The opportunity of seeing an actual Melbourne Cup was exciting enough, but having a photo taken holding it was something most of us don’t even dare to dream.  For families and staff in the Children’s Cancer Centre on the first week of November, dreams became reality as most got to have their turn at the opportunity for some Monday bragging rights.  The 2013 Melbourne Cup (Fiorente) was a hit for all to hold earlier this month, kindly lent to us by Jack Bongiorno, Koala Kids ambassador and generous supporter.

Koala Kids has bought lots of happiness into the Children’s Cancer Centre at The Royal Children’s Hospital since commencing our long awaited weekend program in July.  On the first weekend of each month happy t-shirt clad Koala Kids volunteers have provided activities and served scrumptious fare for the families and staff on Kookaburra and surrounding wards

Warmest thanks to Treat Catering for delivering the most delicious picnic lunch of fresh sandwiches, macaroons, slices, muffins and fresh fruit each Saturday.  In what is an incredibly generous gesture the team from Treat makes sure nobody goes without and families and staff enjoy boxing up their lunch and taking it back to their rooms and desks, or on particularly sunny days, have been able to enjoy eating outside.

And then Sunday we have been turning the usually quiet family room into Koala Kids Pizza Parlour, topping and cooking more than 70 pizzas for the families and staff.  It has been such a joy to see otherwise listless children hatting and gloving up to produce pizzas of their choice.

Next month, with the support of Wilton’s Cookies, the children and their families will be decorating gingerbread houses.

Warm and very special thanks to Piero Sgarioto and his team at Della Rosa Fine Foods for their incredibly generous support and to Treat Catering for picking up the food from Campbellfield.

Special thanks to Rossini, Coup-on-a-Box and Complete Food Services too for donating our pizza boxes and to all of our passionate and enthusiastic volunteers who have ensured that the weekend is filled with smiles and positive energy to distract the families and staff.

Kaboom Sports has had lots of kids out of bed and jumping around, throwing soft darts at a human dartboard, hoisting spongey javelins as high as the ceiling and dancing to the sounds of the air guitars.

ARTS ARE A RIGHT NOT A PRIVILEGE

Over the past 12 months Koala Kids was able to gift many families the opportunity to enjoy some wonderful performances in relaxed sessions and we have been confirmed as a community partner of Arts Centre Melbourne, for the second consecutive year.  The First Call Fund provides support specifically to schools and community groups so they can experience the huge variety of live performances, workshops and other participatory events at Arts Centre Melbourne.

Arts Centre Melbourne strives to improve access to the Arts for everyone.  “The arts can broaden our experience, our empathy and our understanding of the world. Arts Centre Melbourne believes everyone has the right to experience the wonder of the arts. In particular, students, young people and those with social disadvantage can benefit greatly from exposure to the arts. International research* shows arts participation can impact positively on:

  • Social and personal development
  • Attitude to learning
  • Connectedness to community and family
  • Literacy
  • Numeracy
  • Arts knowledge and skills
  • General competencies such as communicating, problem solving, planning, organisation and perseverance.

*Dr Mary Ann Hunter (2005) Education and the Arts, Australia Council for the Arts

https://www.artscentremelbourne.com.au/en/Community/Community-Partner-Program/First-Call-Fund

AROUND THE SCHOOLS

Koala Kids recently received generous donations from Camberwell Grammar, St Vincents de Paul Catholic Primary and Wodonga and Mentone Primary Schools totaling more than $6,500. With the exception of Camberwell Grammar, in each case a child in the school community had been treated for cancer.

Camberwell Grammar held its sixth annual Koala Kids fundraiser with more than 450 middle school students running/walking doing laps around the block on a lovely Spring day.  We were presented with a cheque for more than $4,400 making the total of more than $30,000 raised by the same year levels over the past six years.

Koala Kids was voted unanimously by the SRC at St Vincents de Paul Primary School to be the recipient of funds raised from Footy Colours Day of more than $1,000.  The school, which coincidentally has had two young students undergo cancer treatment, has been supporting Koala Kids for more than five years since year 3 teacher Connie Di Maio shared her own adolescent cancer journey with her students.

Connie recently returned to teaching, at St Anne’s Primary in Sunbury after having two baby boys over the past three years. Connie has remained a volunteer with Koala Kids, managing the Koala Kids Superhero program for children and young people attending Peter Mac for radiotherapy.

Mentone Primary School raised $500 in memory of Gracie (aka Gracie’s Shoebox program).  Gracie came up with the idea of filling shoeboxes with things for children to do while spending time in hospital.  See Gracies Shoeboxes for more information.

Wodonga Primary School raised funds on one of its casual clothes days to celebrate one of its students who had spent most of the year in Melbourne undergoing cancer treatment.

 

Our schools program is not just about fundraising and we relish the opportunity to go into a school and talk about the important support we provide children and young people and their families during treatment.

 

We went to Wesley College, Prahran campus to thank the year 4 students for the Gracies Shoeboxes they had filled with craft and other items to distract young students during treatment.  We are returning shortly to address the year fives and sixes who donated Gracies shoeboxes too.

Koala Kids Jess Bucci spoke at a year 8 leaders’ forum at MLC, Kew.  Despite early nerves Jess quickly grew comfortable and shared lots of fabulous Koala Kids stories with the students before answering dozens of questions.

Koala Kids schools program is gathering momentum, engaging primary and secondary students in volunteering opportunities and the support we provide children and young people during cancer treatment and their families.