Our purpose is to bring happy moments to children and young people during cancer treatment, their families and their healthcare team.
Koala Kids has developed a range of activities and provides therapeutic and other resources for children and young people undergoing treatment in hospital and in their homes. Some items are purely for distraction, some educational, others to supplement programs facilitated by child life, art and music therapists, social workers and other specialists. All are intended to help us to fulfil our mission of our volunteers providing small things that make a difference to the lives of children and young people during cancer treatment, their families and their healthcare team.
When a child or young person is diagnosed with cancer life saving treatment usually starts immediately. The impact of the diagnosis turns lives upside down in an instant. The physical, emotional, psychological and social toll is massive on the child or young person and their parents, relatives and the wider community.
Family routine is thrown into chaos. Education, employment, sport, hobbies and other activities are disrupted. Parents are forced to spend long periods of time in hospital often resulting in the loss of their job. Grandparents, neighbours, extended family or close friends are called on to care for healthy siblings in the family home or other suitable homes.
It is understood that a model of healthcare that establishes partnerships between all parties is imperative and can result in better outcomes for the child during treatment. These parties can include the child or young person, parents, relatives, a close family friend or neighbour, and clinical and allied health support.
This healthcare model acknowledges that quality educational and creative activities can be beneficial in supporting the emotional needs of all involved and contribute to a sense of normalcy for the child and their family.
Koala Kids has developed our happy base so that we can provide direct support to families in addition to supporting them in hospitals. Every family with a child (birth to 17 years of age) undergoing cancer treatment is invited to join our happy base – please click here.
Here a just a few examples of what Koala Kids provides to families on our happy base:
- Delivery of delicious family meals specially prepared by Treat Catering for families in metropolitan Melbourne and some regional areas
- A chocolate smash cake for every child celebrating their birthday during cancer treatment or celebrating end of treatment
- Books, toys, games, art and writing materials
- Information and resources that benefit children during treatment, including port pillows and pill swallowing kits
- Themed activities for special celebrations, including Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Easter and Christmas
- Special experiences offered by our community partners that might appeal to your child or children, including tickets to sporting, arts and other special events
- Reminders about our special programs and activities, including our happy weekend and school holiday programs in hospitals
Koala Kids has developed our happy base so that we can provide direct support to young people aged from 18 to 25 undergoing cancer treatment in addition to supporting them in hospitals. Please click here to join.
Here are just a few examples of what Koala Kids provides:
- A resources kit with a selection of useful items
- Delivery of delicious family meals specially prepared by Treat Catering for families in metropolitan Melbourne and some regional areas
- A chocolate smash cake for your birthday and end of treatment celebration
- Books, puzzles, games, art and writing materials
- Information and resources that benefit you during treatment, including port pillows and pill swallowing kits
- Special experiences offered by our community partners that might appeal to you, including tickets to sporting, arts and other special events
The following items are available in the Children’s Cancer Centres, most treatment centres, units and wards in Victoria and Tasmania.
The items are designed to provide distraction and entertainment during treatment as well as make hospital admissions more comfortable.
Koala Kids Happy Kits
A backpack filled with practical items including wash bag, journal and battery operated candle.
Small quality toys and items to incentive and rewards children and young people for having their treatment.
Koala Kids Colour-Me Art Therapy Program
A pencil case, backpack and a canvas featuring black lined artwork designed by Koala Kids volunteer artists.
Outdoor tables and benches, small furniture items and bookshelves.
DVDs, Books and Magazines
Koala Kids Happy Tubs
Large orange tubs filled with books, puzzles, craft and other activities for children, young people and adults.
Instant meals, snacks, fresh fruit bowls, cereals and a range of teas are provided for most family rooms on wards.
Colouring, Puzzle and Activity Books
Specific oncology textbooks chosen by paediatric oncologists to help families seeking information when their child is diagnosed.
Around 12,000 lollipops each year to sweeten the metallic taste left by chemotherapy or as an incentive for a young child during or post-treatment.
Toys and Activities including Craft
Phone and Device Chargers
Charging bars for wards and outpatient areas to charge phones, tablets and other devices.
Personal Hygiene Packs
Personal hygiene packs including toothbrush, body wash and other items. Provided by Pinchapoo.
Koala Kids Happy Socks
Children, young people and their parents/carers receive a pair of colourful Koala Kids socks on admission into Children’s Cancer Centres and for admission longer than two days in regional hospitals.
Koala Kids provides a wide range of happy events for families and staff. Not all activities are available in each hospital.
*Due to COVID-19 restrictions, all these activities are currently on hold. Please contact us for details of our virtual activities.
Koala Kids provides craft kits to encourage free or interactive activities, themed food and iconic items to help celebrate local, national and international events throughout the year.
For example, Australia Day, Chinese New Year, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s and Father’s Days, Halloween and Christmas.
Siblings are encouraged to share their experiences and learn about the treatment that their brother or sister is undergoing, at specially developed sibling days.
Koala Kids provides refreshments and catering, activities and goodie bags in consultation with hospital staff.
School Holiday Program
Koala Kids holiday sessions run during Victorian state school holidays at The Royal Children’s Hospital, Monash Children’s Hospital and at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre’s Paediatric Radiotherapy Service.
Most Wednesdays Koala Kids volunteers team with Peter Mac’s music therapist to provide seasonal or event based craft activities for children and young people.
Koala Kids supports the monthly Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) clinic. Volunteers serve a light dinner and we provide appropriate activities including presentations from interesting guest speakers.
Koala Kids volunteers provide a range of family and staff centred activities including morning teas, picnic lunches, pancake and pizza making days on weekdays and occasional weekends.
Koala Kids Happy ClipsKoala Kids Happy Clips are specially designed to make children’s intravenous (IV) poles less daunting and more friendly during cancer treatment. Happy Clips also provide a valuable resource for clinicians and nurses to help them connect and create conversations with children about things that make them happy. There are presently 20 designs from horses and puppy dogs, soccer and unicorns, to birthday cakes for children who are celebrating their special day in hospital to make their own.
Koala Kids Pill Swallowing Kit
Designed for a person of any age experiencing trouble swallowing oral medication. The kit includes a drink bottle, instructions, an I can do it chart and merit stickers (for young children to develop their skills), practice mini M&Ms, reward treats, and a cup, especially designed in the
swallowing motion of the mouth.
Stress Relief Balls
A range of stress balls, designed to distract children and young people during painful and invasive procedures, and to help the clinician find the child’s vein, if doing a blood test. A commonly used stress management technique is tightening and releasing one or two stress balls in time with four slow breathLipsmackers and Lip Balms
Extremely dry, chapped and painful lips are often associated with both chemotherapy and radiotherapy. A range of flavoured lip balms and Lipsmackers are available to use to keep their lips moist, ease the pain and to aid the lips healing. Some clinicians line the inside of nitrous oxide masks to provide a distracting fragrance as they inhale on instruction.
Cool-It & Heat Packs
We offer a range of novelty cool packs to ease discomfort in a particular area and distract the child from procedures. We also provide heat packs for children and adults for pain management.
Novelty Adhesive Bandages
Novelty and other adhesive bandages are available for small wounds or immediately post an injection or blood test. Choosing from a range of different designs provides children with both an incentive and distraction from the procedure.
Koala Kids Happy Bubbles
Small bubbles can provide hours of distraction for a child who is experiencing pain and anxiety during procedures. The blowing of bubbles can help a child’s breathing become regular and focused.Buzzy®
Buzzy helps block sharp pain and provides distraction for children during short, painful medical procedures. Buzzy placed on the skin uses vibration and cold to divert the brain’s attention from the pain. Scientific research has proven that vibration and cold send non-pain signals to the brain.
Koala Kids volunteers sew a range of novelty printed, specially designed, hand-made small cushions with Velcro to attach them to the seat belt sash. This prevents the chemotherapy port or PICC line from being aggravated whilst wearing a seatbelt.
Koala Kids Novelty Theatre Gowns
Fun printed theatre gowns in a range of novelty designs are custom made by Koala Kids volunteers. Disney movies, superhero characters or hobby prints like dinosaurs, butterflies, fish, geometric designs provide an incentive for children to have a general anaesthetic. Available front or back opening with ties for port access.
Koala Kids works with child-life, art and music therapists in the Children’s Cancer Centres and at treatment hospitals in regional Victoria and Tasmania to provide therapeutic and other resources to reduce patient and parent anxiety for ongoing invasive procedures.
Together with these therapists, Koala Kids has developed, sourced and produced a range of essential items which aim to reduce the stress that can be associated with hospitalisation by focusing on developmental, social and emotional wellbeing. These items are neither provided by hospitals nor any other organisations in the paediatric and young people’s cancer space.
Koala Kids provides a wide range of resources for each of the different therapists. If you can’t see what you require listed anywhere on our website, please contact us with a list of your requirements. We can source paints, easels, coloured paper, scissors, glue etc for the art therapist, musical instruments, sensory items, useful toys, as well as tailored items provided on a needs basis for families, or as indicated by their social worker.
Koala Kids aims to provide a chocolate smash cake for every child and young person celebrating their birthday in hospital and at home during cancer treatment. The highly sought after confectionary- filled pinatas come with a rubber mallet, orange flashing glasses and lolly cups and make birthdays particularly special for the children, their families and the staff who care for them.
Koala Kids will also provide a smash cake to mark a treatment milestone.
Children and their families count down days, weeks, months and longer till their end of treatment – to ring the Celebration Bell. Koala Kids has installed bells in each of the Children’s Cancer Centres. We can connect you with a photographer and or a videographer to capture your special moments and we can also provide giant freckle or a lolly- covered, chocolate pizza.
Make sure you ask your nurse to arrange a smash cake or end of treatment freckle or pizza well ahead of your child’s special day or with ample notice, Koala Kids can arrange to have one sent to your home.
Ensure your child has a smash cake or chocolate pizza on their birthday or for their special celebration by registering on our happy base.
The Koala Kids family includes the healthcare teams who work tirelessly in challenging and stressful situations. As well as including these teams in all of the events that we host in the hospitals we also provide wellness programs and items – resources that calm, relax and can increase mindfulness during breaks and roster changes.
We have recently provided diffusers and essential oils and other support including literature, small therapeutic items, tea parties and staff celebrations by request. Contact Koala Kids firstname.lastname@example.org if you are looking for something specific for your team, for a special celebration or to encourage their wellness and mindfulness.
Koala Kids ensures that every child and young person has the opportunity to join Koala Kids Superhero Program to reduce the anxiety associated with daily radiotherapy treatment. Families attending Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre for radiotherapy can complete the Koala Kids Superhero form providing details of their child’s favourite superhero and their size and we will send them their own costume.
It has been known for children to look forward to their radiotherapy treatment at Peter Mac each day so they can wear their costume.
Koala Kids Superhero Program includes the choice of a themed sticker chart to count down their treatments, age-relevant resources like books, stickers, games, DVDs and dolls and an end of treatment certificate.
Super siblings are also recognized with superhero costumes and certificates.
Some Peter Mac radiotherapists are trained in cinematography to provide a special video documenting the child’s journey, if time permits.
Koala Kids and Peter Mac collaborate to create works of art and special memorabilia from the basic radiotherapy mask. Children and young people having radiation to the head and neck area require a mask to ensure they remain perfectly still and to keep their head from moving. Markings are drawn on the mask, not on their skin and patient identifications and marks are removed from the mask at the end of treatment.
Koala Kids has a team of volunteer artists who work with Peter Mac to create designs in response to the child’s requests from materials and resources that we supply.
See Koala Kids and Peter Mac volunteers at work creating special memorabilia, superheroes and celebrities here.
Koala Kids works closely with the Victorian Paediatric Palliative Care Program to ensure their clinical consultants have a wide variety of relevant activities and special items for children and young people who are being cared for palliatively and their siblings.