Monthly Archives: July 2017

Making magical memories in Mittagundi

“Mittagundi is a really inspiring place, and once you’ve been there, you’ll never forget it” -adolescent sibling supported by Very Special Kids

Recently Very Special Kids organised a very special week and took 17 brave and adventurous adolescent siblings we support up to Victoria’s Alpine Region.

The group spent a week on a rustic pioneer style farm at Mittagundi Outdoor Education Centre, which is situated on a 400 acre property near the old gold mining town of Glen Valley.

Very Special Kids Sibling Support Program aims to bring children together who are in similar circumstances and encourage peer support in order to reduce any feelings of isolation. The adolescent program is specially designed to cater to the age group and provides a safe space where teens who have a sibling with a life-threatening illness, can share their unique experiences with one another.

The group thoroughly enjoyed their week and hiked in some rugged terrain, camped in tents for two nights, and even went without electricity and phone reception for most of the week. Though the mountain was mostly bare they managed to have fun making snowmen and having snowball fights.

Many of the adolescents reported that it was amazing to be able to see a sky full of stars for a change, try things they hadn’t before like wood splitting, and see snow for the first time in their lives.

Most of the group however, said that the thing they valued most was the opportunity to make meaningful connections with others going through similar experiences.

“My Mittagundi experience was amazing and memorable. I made new friends, overcame challenges and overall I learnt more about myself as well as the people and the environment around me” said one of the attendees.

Securing the future of Very Special Kids

The long-term future of Very Special Kids children’s hospice in Malvern has been secured, with funding from the Federal and Victorian governments facilitating a transfer of ownership of the property to Very Special Kids.

Today Very Special Kids formally announced the property purchase with special guests Hon Greg Hunt MP, Federal Minister for Health and Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP, Federal Member for Higgins at Very Special Kids Hospice in Malvern.

To mark this momentous occasion, children staying at Very Special Kids hospice were presented with a giant cardboard key and had the opportunity to engage in interactive art therapy by painting on the key, along with government representatives joining in.

Following on from the $4 million of capital funding pledged by Commonwealth Government in June 2015, the Victorian Minister for Health The Hon. Jill Hennessy MP announced a further $2.75 million in funding in the Victorian Budget 2015/16.

Very Special Kids has leased the Malvern property from the Victorian Government since 1995 through an annual rental payment. The funding from the federal and state government essentially gifts ownership of the property to Very Special Kids.

Chairman Peter Polson said he is delighted the capital funding will secure the long-term future of Very Special Kids Hospice.

“It’s a very pleasing result after two years of negotiations with both levels of government. After receiving a critical funding pledge from the Commonwealth Government in 2015, the announcement that Victoria’s Minister for Health has pledged support is the final piece in the puzzle to safeguard this critically important children’s service.”

Since becoming the Member for Higgins in 2009, Kelly O’Dwyer has been working with Very Special Kids to secure this Government funding and her efforts have played a large role.

“Very Special Kids does the work of angels, supporting families and their children with life-threatening illnesses. I am so thrilled that $4 million of federal funding has helped to secure the purchase of Very Special Kids’ Malvern home.

Although the allocation of government money has secured the future of Very Special Kids and allows our charity to plan for the long-term, it has no impact on the ongoing operational funding required. The challenge still remains for Very Special Kids to generate fundraising of more than $5.5 million each year to maintain current service levels.

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Very Special Kids Employee Awards

Today we held our annual Employee Awards Ceremony, which recognise a variety of ways staff contribute to Very Special Kids and demonstrate strength in our organisational values.

The Board, staff and volunteers of Very Special Kids value:
Respect by recognising the individual, welcoming diversity and nurturing choice.
Collaboration by building connections, strengthening relationships and partnering.
Community by creating supportive relationships and a sense of belonging.
Compassion by being welcoming and showing warmth, hope and empathy.
Learning by enhancing and sharing our skills, experiences, knowledge and wisdom.
Integrity by acting ethically, honestly, fairly and with accountability.

The award recipients were Adisa Hubanic and Carole Burton for Positive Energy, Kavitha Krishnan for Bright Spark, Jane Baker for Makes It Happen, Catherine Haldane for Most Inspirational, Kevin Carlin and Gillian Newham for Quiet Achiever, Isabel Munoz for Rising Star, and Janet Cowling and Sharon Stynes for Keen Collaborator/Mentor. Kristi Ingrilli, Angela Flood and Svetlana Bykovec were also recipients of the Judges Awards for Excellence.

Our service milestones recognitions went to Bec Coleman for an amazing 15 years and Jess Birnbaum, Lilly Purdam, Mei Goh, Mandy Farrelly, Jacinta Sonego and Lauren Kemp for five years.

Very Special Kids employs 98 staff over 8 locations throughout Victoria, with each and every employee helping to make a valuable difference to the families we support. 

It’s a multidisciplinary workforce with five teams – Family Support Services, Hospice, Fundraising, Corporate and Marketing and Communications. We have a continual focus on building a purpose-focused and values-driven culture that delivers excellence in services for families.

Staff describe the culture as being caring, compassionate, committed, team-orientated, collaborative, inclusive and passionate.

Congratulations to all of the recipients, it was well deserved and we are so lucky that our organisation is filled with people like you!

Winter Wonderland at the Hospice

This month the Very Special Kids Hospice was transformed into a Winter Wonderland, with lights, Christmas decorations and a whole lot of fake snow which was beyond magical.

Our July School Holiday Program ran and thanks to our staff and volunteers, the children staying thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

Not only did were we visited by many special guests, we also had the North Pole Kitchen in full swing, and arts and crafts tailored to the theme for everyone to be a part of. The children were taken into a wonderful world of creativity and imagination.

Some of our special guests included Queen Elsa and Princess Anna, who helped us build snowmen and performed their magic tricks. They even created a snowstorm and sang ‘Let It Go’ which the kids adored.

Santa Claus came to visit and sang us carols and handed out presents. One of his reindeers later made an appearance too, with a miniature pony dressed in it’s finest reindeer outfit turning even the most curved frowns upside down.

We then had some more fluffy creatures visit us, from Rainbird’s Farm, and we especially loved the lamb and baby goat. There were even some not so fluffy, interesting guests, that slithered and hopped about, from Wildlife X-posure.

The two weeks were filled with a lot of fun and countless smiles and although we are sad to see them over, we cannot wait to see what the next program brings.

The School Holiday Programs are operated four times each year by Very Special Kids Hospice, and ensures that children with life-threatening illnesses have access to activities in a safe and controlled environment, and experiences they wouldn’t usually get to have.

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