Monthly Archives: February 2015

Very Special Kids welcomes senior managers to the team

Very Special Kids is pleased to welcome to the team Kara Briggs, formerly of EACH Social and Community Health, and Sharon Stynes, formerly of The Reach Foundation.

Recent growth of the organisation has resulted in Kara filling the newly created role of General Manager, Planning and Process Improvement, and Sharon heading up the expanding fundraising events team.

Kara comes to the role with a wealth of experience in service management, including senior positions at EACH Social and Community Health and the Royal Children’s Hospital.

In a career marking move, Sharon has left The Reach Foundation after working there for more than a decade as the Events Manager, supporting her late brother Jim Stynes who founded the youth services organisation.

Very Special Kids Chief Executive Officer Sarah Hosking welcomes the new appointments and is confident Kara and Sharon will take the organisation to strengths.

“Very Special Kids has evolved over the past two years to increase our services to families. As we continue to grow, Kara’s role will ensure that our high standards of policy and practice are proactively maintained.

“This growth will be supported by a stronger than ever fundraising team with Sharon’s track record of creating and managing highly successful fundraising events that connect Very Special Kids back to the community,” she said.

Gardening volunteers needed

Very Special Kids is looking for volunteers with a green thumb and time to spare, to join our gardening team.

The gardening team meet every Thursday morning to help maintain the Very Special Kids grounds in Malvern.

It is an active role that requires people with a passion for gardening and an ability to work together in a small but dedicated team.

To find out more please contact Lou Cooney  at or 03 9804 6222.

Golf challenge tees off $16k for Very Special Kids

The Flinders Five Golf Challenge has raised $16,000 for Very Special Kids, doubling its total from the previous year.

The event, now it’s in tenth year, is run by long-time Very Special Kids volunteer Ray Sneddon and his fellow Flinders Golf Club members Cyril Benjamin, Jeff Smith, John Montgomery and Paul Armstrong.

More than 130 people turned out to the club on Friday 6 February for a round of 18-hole golf, charity auction, gourmet lunch and a presentation from Very Special Kids.

Over the past ten years the event has raised over $100,000 to support Very Special Kids.

A life-long bond

It seems fitting that Helen Jackson shares the same surname as the family she volunteers for; what began as a fledgling friendship born out of her desire to help families caring for children with life-threatening conditions, has now become a connection that’s as close as any family.

The Jackson family, Anne and Peter and their daughters Sarah (20) and Eliza (15), have received Helen’s support for the past eight years as they’ve worked through the challenges of caring for Eliza, who has Rett Syndrome. The neurological disorder impacts Eliza’s mobility and communication, and means she requires intensive round the clock care.

Helen joined the Jacksons as their home volunteer, initially, to support a shy 12-year-old Sarah. The pair spent time together going to art classes, watching movies, playing board games, cooking and going to Sarah’s netball games.

With Sarah now an independent young adult, Helen has turned more of her attention to Eliza, taking her for walks, visiting her in hospital and when she stays at Very Special Kids House, and watching The Wiggles together.

“I’ve been blessed with a special relationship with a wonderful family and the opportunity to make a difference in their lives,” said Helen.

Anne said the family and Helen have developed a close friendship that goes beyond Helen being their Very Special Kids trained home volunteer.

“After so many years spent together you can’t help but be close. Now she’s just a part of the family,” she said.

Peter said they feel privileged to have had incredible Very Special Kids home volunteers help their family.

“It’s the little things; the bits and pieces they do that all come together to make a big, big difference.”

Very Special Kids has 130 families on the waiting list for a volunteer, and it costs $1,300 to train one volunteer. Donate to help us train more volunteers.



Families make a splash at Adventure Park

36 families from the Barwon, Hume and South West regions enjoyed a day of wet and wild fun at Geelong Adventure Park for the Very Special Kids Family Day.

With the sun shining down kids swooped down water slides, dove into pools and had their faces painted, while parents relaxed with free massages.

It was a day away from worries and a chance to meet other families going through similar challenges.

The event was made possible by funding from Turi Foods and volunteers from one of their brands Golden Farms, ran arts and crafts activities on the day.

Four tracks for Very Special Kids

Very Special Kids is pleased to be a charity partner for the 4Tracks4Kids fundraiser, a 37 kilometre walk to all four Melbourne racecourses on 9 March – starting at Sandown via Caulfield and Flemington before finishing down the straight at Moonee Valley.

4Tracks4Kids, founded by racing identity Richard Callander, is dedicated to helping the kids of Australia through raising funds for aligned charities that can help develop medicines and cures for kid’s diseases, training medical personal and purchasing important medical equipment, supporting the families of kids in need, as well as working closely with disadvantaged youth to create opportunities. Very Special Kids will be one of four charities to receive funds from the Melbourne edition of the event.

The Conlon family, who are supported by Very Special Kids, are taking part in 4tracks4kids again this year. Seventeen-year-old Michael makes the journey in his wheelchair and hopes to raise $5,000 for the cause. Donate to Michael’s journey at

If you or your business would like to register as a walker to raise funds for the event, please contact Addy Wetzler on 03 9804 6227.

Let’s go surfing

The Disabled Surfers Association of Australia provides safe and enjoyable surfing experiences for people with a disability.

Families supported by Very Special Kids are invited to the next ‘Let’s go Surfing Day’ in March.

Kim George whose grandson Matthew is cared by Very Special Kids, has taken her family to surfing days in the past and said it puts a big smile on everyone’s faces.

“This group of people take the time to help all children and adults with disabilities. Matthew loves every minute of it and my daughter Tamara can’t stop smiling. Please come along, it’s an awesome time.”

For bookings and further information visit

Ocean Grove Main Beach
Sunday 1 March 2015
8.30am registration
Contact Julia 0413 925 970

Point Leo Beach
Saturday 14 March 2015
11am-3pm, registration open at 9am

Family volunteers needed in North West Melbourne

Very Special Kids is holding a special volunteer information session in Brunswick to meet the growing need for Family Support Volunteers in North West Melbourne.

There are 25 families on the waiting list from the North West regions of Melbourne. Family Support Volunteers assist in four different ways: in the family home, when the child is admitted to hospital, when the child is at Very Special Kids House and by participating in program activities, such as Sibling Days.

Every Family Support Volunteer completes a 27 hour training program to equip them with the skills and knowledge needed to support families who have a child with a life-threatening condition.

Those interested in volunteering can attend an information session at the Brunswick Town Hall on Tuesday 17 February 6.30pm to 7.30pm.

The Ellul’s, a family of six from Craigieburn, love having the support of their volunteer Sam Fahnles. Thirteen-year-old Ricky has neurofibromatosis, a genetic condition that causes tumors to develop wherever there are nerve cells. The condition has left Ricky legally blind.

Sam went through the volunteer training in 2014, and now helps the Ellul’s by taking Ricky out on weekend adventures, including his favourite activity tenpin bowling.

Read Ricky and Sams’ story in the Hume Leader.

Nutritious hospice meals made possible by grant

The Newman’s Own Foundation is helping us to continue providing nutritious meals to children staying at Very Special Kids Hospice.

A grant from the Newman’s Own Foundation has enabled Very Special Kids to upgrade our hospice kitchen to meet health and food safety standards. The grant allowed us to purchase a brand new fridge, freezer and dishwasher, as well as provided funding for our Kitchen Manager role.

Very Special Kids partners with many trusts and foundations, such as the Newman’s Own Foundation, that are dedicated to helping children with life-threatening conditions and their families. These partnerships are important for our ability to provide the many programs and services we offer. We would like to thank the Newman’s Own Foundation for its wonderful contribution to Very Special Kids.