Monthly Archives: June 2017

Victoria’s first Trolley Push raises over $80,000 for Very Special Kids

For the first time, Coles Services team members have literally pushed to raise more than $80,000 for children with life-threatening conditions by embarking on Coles’ first ‘Trolley Push’ into towns and suburbs across Victoria to support Very Special Kids.

Over 12 days the Coles Services team members pushed a modified shopping trolley to around 50 locations across Victoria, encouraging the local community at each destination to donate to Very Special Kids.

Merchandise sales and donations by customers, suppliers and team members over the Trolley Push totalled just over $40,000 and Coles then matched the donations dollar for dollar.

Coles Services Area Manager Michael Thompson championed the first ‘Trolley Push’ and was thrilled to see team members rally behind the cause with such passion.

“Being the very first initiative of its kind for Coles, the Trolley Push is a fundraiser that our team is excited to support. Coles Services was established in 2014 to manage the collection of our trolleys and cleaning services across Australia and this is also the team’s first major community initiative,” he said.

Team members from across metropolitan and regional supermarkets took turns to push a specially-designed trolley across Victoria over the 12 day journey. To reach as many locations as possible throughout the day, the trolley was trucked across large distances but pushed into the centre of towns and suburbs.

To help support the cause, residents donated to the team during their Trolley Push via a gold coin donation or by purchasing Very Special Kids merchandise.

We are beyond thrilled that the fundraising activity was so successful, and are so grateful for the amount of effort put in by Coles Services team members.

Diversity & Inclusion at Very Special Kids

At Very Special Kids we welcome people of all backgrounds and respect that the families we support are different in many ways including country of birth, ethnicity, culture, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, religion and ability. We are keen to ensure that the services we provide are accessible and responsive to the individual needs of all our families. To do this, we have recently set up a Working Group with representatives from all areas of Very Special Kids to celebrate these differences and think about what we can do to make our services as inclusive as possible.

Some of the things the Diversity Working Group hopes to achieve include:
·Identifying ways to make our physical surroundings more welcoming to people from all backgrounds
·Creating stronger relationships with advocacy organisations such as the Centre for Ethnicity and Health
·Gaining a better understanding of the cultural and other diversity amongst our families through improved data collection
·Ensuring that our publications, fundraising and social media reflect our diverse family population and are easy to read
·Understanding how we can better support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families
·Ensuring our services are accessible to same sex families
·Reflecting diversity in the children’s experiences during their stay in the hospice, for example in the artwork they do and the stories that are read to them
·Offering training on diversity and inclusion to all staff
·Better celebrating diversity by recognizing events such as National Reconciliation Week & Sorry Day, Cultural Diversity Week & Harmony Day, NAIDOC Week, International Women’s Day, International Day of People with Disability, and International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia

We would love to have some families involved in the Working Group too, so if you’d be interested in contributing in some way, please email Kara Briggs (General Manager Planning & Improvement) on or call 9804 6252.

Bereaved Sibling Weekend

This past Saturday and Sunday Very Special Kids held a Bereaved Sibling Weekend, designed to inspire expression and connection.

The event was held at our base in Malvern, and turned out to be a wonderful weekend, thanks to the dedication of our Family Support Practitioners and volunteers.

On the Saturday, 20 bereaved siblings came together to enjoy a range of activities including an awesome music therapy session with our resident music therapist Michelle which culminated in some lovely heartfelt verses written by the kids, as well as a moving rendition of ‘Count on me’.

After a lovely pizza lunch, the kids enjoyed spending time thinking and talking about their likes and feelings, as well as creating an amazing rainbow and some clouds for our Remembrance Day in October.

On Sunday 10 families returned to enjoy a day of family togetherness by participating in a meaningful family discussion, and an amazing art therapy session where families had the opportunity to create family shields on canvases.

They also had the opportunity for some family photos in the Photo booth, face painting with the amazing Fairy Mary who donated her time and energy, warming sausages donated by Glenferrie Meats and the most wonderful dessert bar organised kindly by the Cake Angels.

Many of the families who attended gave great feedback and explained that they really enjoyed and valued the opportunity to connect with each other in a safe and nurturing space.

Thank you to our Family Support Practitioners Angela and Puchi for ensuring such a great event, and to everyone who attended.


Hearty Shoppers raise $38,227

This past Saturday between 9am and 3pm Very Special Kids invaded Malvern Town Hall with its half yearly Fashion Sale, and it was absolute shopping madness.

Overall the sale raised a total of $38,227 which goes directly to Very Special Kids, helping us support over 900 families across Victoria.

Many keen shoppers were lining up in anticipation from 8am onwards and sprung in on a mission to navigate their way through the amazing selection of items.

Our Fashion Sale Ambassador and well known Fashion Blogger Jess Dempsey sounded the welcome horn at 9am to officially kick off the event. Jess, also known as @whatwouldkarldo, puts an amazing effort in every Sale in order to get more people interested, always using her large following for the benefit of things she feels passionate about.


We also had special guest appearances from other well-known bloggers that have also been helping to advertise the Sale over their fashion blogs and Instagram’s.

The large number of volunteers was truly incredible and those involved made sure the Fashion Sale ran as smooth as possible, ensuring everyone had a great shopping experience.

Shopping can sometimes be seen as an act of superficiality, but when people attend events like this it really is so much more than what meets the eye. With every $1250 raised, a child can have an overnight stay at our Very Special Kids Hospice, which offers specialised palliative care and provides families with respite.

On behalf of Very Special Kids, thank you for attending the #vskfashionsale it is so very appreciated and we cannot wait to do it again in November. Enjoy your new items!

If you missed out on the sale but would like to support Very Special Kids in another way click here.


Proud of our very special volunteers

As a children’s charity, Very Special Kids are proud to have over 840 volunteers generously giving their time to help us care for children with life-threatening conditions. The contribution of volunteers for our organisation is extremely valuable, as they work directly with families and assist with fundraising and administration duties.

Very Special Kids is not and has never been affiliated with any third party organisations for face-to-face fundraising or donor acquisition activities. We are proud of our volunteer program and are grateful for the generous support of our volunteers, many of whom engage in face-to-face fundraising activities and assure we don’t need to hire any third party organisations.

Being 75% self-funded, Very Special Kids needs to raise more than $5.65 million each year from the community through donations, appeals, events and other fundraising activities. We are grateful for the broad support we receive from our volunteers and wider community of supporters to help us continue providing vital services to families and children in need.

To find out more information on Very Special Kids Volunteer Program, click here.

The Postcard Project

In the Hume region a Postcard Project has been run as a therapeutic activity for bereaved families in their own homes.

Families who have participated in the project have found it to be extremely moving to create postcards containing messages to their very special child. Filled with love and longing, the cards shared emotions through pictures and words, with participants agreeing the process was powerful and helpful.

“The postcard activity was a lovely thing to do with our girls as they love craft and it got them talking about their sister who had died and her favourite things” said a bereaved mother supported by Very Special Kids.

“It also created and built a trusting relationship with both our Family Support Practitioner and family volunteer who helped out on the day. We found talking about our child and sharing memories to be very helpful. It was a lovely family project to do.”

When asked what it was like for the family to sit down and create a message to their child who had died another mother said, “Writing the message was pretty tough in the beginning. For me, I was looking at it as if I had one chance to send him a card, what would I put on it? Would I get it right? With the support of our Family Support Practitioner and given the time we all needed, we could work our way through that and clear our minds to write a beautiful message to our son. It gave us the opportunity to sit as a family and reflect on our son’s life. We cried a little and also smiled”.

You can view completed postcards here.

postcard project


Family Fun in the Hume region

Although Very Special Kids Hospice is located in Malvern, it is committed to providing family support across Victoria through offices in several regional areas, with Family Support Practitioners.

The Family Support Team work closely with families to understand their needs and offer appropriate support, such as counselling and advocacy.

Last weekend a Ten Pin Bowls Family Day was hosted in the Hume region, thanks to our Family Support Practitioner Jenni Coldwell.

Seven families attended the event in total and all participants reported a great fun day with one mum sending an email the next day with the following:

 “Hi Jenni, I just wanted to thank you very much for organising the day yesterday. Our family had a lovely afternoon and it was great to see some of the other families there too. We really appreciate the time and thought you contribute and the effort of organising these events. As the boys went to bed last night, Harry asked if he could raise some money for Very Special Kids… hopefully we’ll come up with some ideas and be able to give back in some way.”

The assistance of link volunteer Kirstin Street, her partner Harley and event volunteer Ian Coldwell ensured the smooth running of the event. Having Kirstin, Harley and Ian there made an enormous difference to families and their hard work on the day contributed to the success of the event.

Thanks to the team at Shepparton Ten Pin Bowls Centre and manager Melissa Thomson for making it all possible.

In addition to supporting families on an individual basis, team members in regional offices coordinate local programs and events like this regularly. This provides families with the opportunity to meet each other, share information and experiences and enjoy some time out together.

To find out more about our regional services click here.

Koch Family Shari and boys 2 The Morton Family 2 Tom and Dad

Bloggers give back to Very Special Kids

Last Wednesday Very Special Kids, hosted a very special morning with some very special ladies. We had over 10 fashion and mummy bloggers come to our office in Malvern, to help us get ready for our Fashion Sale on Saturday 17 June at Malvern Town Hall (see here for more details).

Assisted by our ambassador Jess Dempsey, owner of well-known blog What Would Karl Do, the ladies had a fantastic morning filled with treats, photo-booth fun and professional photoshoots, in order to raise awareness of the sale and help raise much needed funds for Very Special Kids. The ladies also got to meet one of the mothers that we support, who shared some very thoughtful insights and stories with the humbled attendees.

Some of the bloggers involved were:

Adrienne- Stylish Bump
Dee- adapttrend
Emily – melbournefashionmum
Erin- themumsgroup
Jordie- themodernminimalist
Kate – meetookids
Kylie- lovelittlebig
Rachelle- themummycode
Violette- a_stylish_age

It was fantastic to see women that have such a large reach through their online networks, getting involved and encouraging their followers to get on board too. Not only did the ladies showcase the items that will be on sale, but they compiled outfits and snapped some photos for their online platforms, so search the tag #vskfashionsale or look up these lovely ladies on Instagram and you might get some sneak previews of what will be on offer at our sale.

Thank you so much to all whom attended, we look forward to seeing you again!

Valuing the continuity of care

Our Family Support Team is a very important part of what Very Special Kids does and without them there would be a large gap in the services that we offer. Not only are our team specialised in counselling families who have a child with a life threatening illness, but they also support those who are bereaved too. One of our Family Support Practitioners wrote a piece about what it’s like working as a social worker, and provides insight into the amazing role.

“Very Special Kids provides holistic family centred care to more than 900 families across Victoria with ongoing support from diagnosis all the way through to recovery or bereavement. I have been a part of the family support team at Very Special Kids in my capacity as a social worker for almost six years now.  I think of myself as a co-creator, building authentic support relationships with families in an effort to provide choice at all stages of care. Very Special Kids provides a unique level of intervention that values continuity of care and longevity of support. Integral to this process is understanding the family as a system and favouring a flexible model of care rather than adopting a one size fits all approach. 

There is so much I value about working this way. Looking through the lens of a social worker allows me to think systemically, to consider the impact of environmental factors and past losses on families. My role is forever changing and is largely shaped by the alchemy of the people that I support, they are without a doubt my greatest teachers. In this way, what comes to me as seed moves on as blossom. We are bound together by kindness and generosity. For this reason, the family support role at Very Special Kids is hard to define. It means different things to different people and demands different things from me every day as a result.

We live in a culture that has been largely unwilling to accept the fact that sadly children do die and that we have an obligation as a community to adopt a village mindedness when it comes to caring for these children and their families. We must all bear witness and without a doubt providing families with choice at end of life lays at the heart of this commitment. Whether that’s helping families remain at home, in hospital or in the care of our hospice at Very Special Kids, we have an obligation to listen deeply, to educate and to co-create accordingly. 

I have been in the profound with families as they navigate the terrain of death and the oceanic tidal waves of their grief. At Very Special Kids we stay involved indefinitely after the death of a child and this continuum of care offers me privileged insight into the lessons grief teaches us about what it means to be human. It’s my job to lean in and listen. To welcome mystery and to be curious. My experience in paediatric palliative care has left an indelible mark on my soul, the work has polished and weathered me. I have learnt to allow whatever aspect of myself is needed to come forward. To dance with uncertainty means I must continue to cultivate the not knowing mind, offering a loop by which families can come into my calm t’s not so much where I can take the work, but more a question of where the work can take me. Simply put, being with the dying inspires me to live well.”

-Jessica Birnbaum, Very Special Kids


Fashion Sale fundraising for families

Every year Very Special Kids hold a Fashion Sale in June to raise much needed funds to be able to support families and children with life threatening illnesses.

With the help of their Fashion Sale Ambassador and founder of blog What Would Karl Do, Jess Dempsey, Very Special Kids aims to raise $50,000.

“It was an easy choice to make when I was asked to be the Fashion Sale Ambassador. Each year the bi-annual sale raises close to $100,000 for the charity, which costs $7.5million annually to operate, and I feel lucky to be able to help them do that.” Says Jess.

15 year old Christian Tomai, is one of the children Very Special Kids supports, and his siblings and mother benefit from the services offered.

At just two years old after many seizures and constant worrying from his mother Ersilia, Christian was diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome, which is a rare and catastrophic, lifelong form of epilepsy.

“The prognosis was really bad and we were really upset, I just felt hopeless” said his mum.

Christian is a very friendly and affectionate boy. Although he suffers from intellectual disability he is very clever with all things tech, and despite the fact that Christian is mentally like a 4 or 5-year-old, his other hobbies include watching the footy and WWE wrestling, similar to many boys his age.

Life for Christian’s family is not similar to others however, as there is a constant uneasiness with a lot of worry.

“Kids with this syndrome have a very high mortality rate, about 20%. That’s what worries us the most, it’s always in the back of our minds” said Ersilia.

The Tomai’s got involved with Very Special Kids in 2011, and Ersilia has felt a lot of support since then.

“The biggest help was definitely the home volunteer provided by Very Special Kids, who looked after Christian for two years, he came every Sunday and would take Christian out. He loved him, and he was so good with the other kids as well. Unfortunately he moved interstate but he was an amazing carer and he still keeps in touch” Ersilia explained.

Their family support practitioner is currently looking to replace the home volunteer in order to continue that support. Christian’s siblings, Jasmine 13, Gabrielle 10 and Benjamin 8, are also regular attendees of our sibling days.

“The kids love the sibling days, it’s nice for them to do something on the holidays and have a little escape and to have something that is just for them” said Ersilia.

Recently Ersilia and Jasmine also spent some time with Jess Dempsey at our Bloggers Showcase.

tomai family3

Living with a child with a life-threatening illness is never easy and induces a lot of fear into a family’s state.

“I’m just thankful he is still here. Things could be going really well but one day he could just not wake up. I’m grateful for every morning that I still get to see him” she said.

To help Very Special Kids continue to support families like the Tomai’s, head to their Fashion Sale on Saturday 17 June, from 9am to 3pm, at Malvern Town Hall. Clothing will be on sale at upto 90% off, with tops, shorts and jeans from $10, jackets, blazers, dresses and knits from $30, shoes from $10, and accessories, bags and kids wear from $5!