Monthly Archives: July 2018

IKEA gives a very special makeover

Very Special Kids was recently awarded a $12,000 makeover grant in the latest round of IKEA’s Living Local Community Grants.

Very Special Kids was very excited to launch the new and improved counselling room today, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Helping those in need is a priority for both Very Special Kids and IKEA and the Grant utilised IKEA’s products, expertise and co-workers.

Families caring for a child with life-threatening conditions and bereaved families will now have the opportunity to express feelings, thoughts, hopes and fears with their Family Support Practitioner in a safe, functional and heart-warming space at Very Special Kids.

Very Special Kids is exceptionally grateful for everyone who voted and contributed to them receiving the grant, as well as the amount of effort put in by all of the IKEA staff and volunteers involved.

Not only were they all a delight to have in the Malvern office, but the thoughtfulness and attention to detail they displayed completely exceeded expectations. Very Special Kids looks forward to working with IKEA more in the future.

Very Special Kids Chief Executive Officer Michael Wasley says the charity relies on the Victorian community to help continue its services.

“Each year it costs over $8.5 million to operate Very Special Kids. Without donations and support from our community we would not be able to continue caring for these brave families.”

Children staying at the hospice, also created a heart-warming “thank you” piece of art with their Art Therapist for IKEA’s volunteers and staff, whom delivered the much needed makeover.


A special dog’s tale

An interview with Olive and Hospice Volunteer Kirsty Powers, written by Mary Ryder, Family Support Practitioner

Olive is a very special dog. She is a beautiful, glossy, black Labrador with soft, bright brown eyes that melt your heart. She belongs to Kirsty Powers, a Hospice volunteer, and her therapy career at Very Special Kids began two years ago when she padded through the hospice doors for the very first time.

Olive is a trained and certificated therapy dog. Kirsty wanted to give something back to a charity following family bereavements and she especially wanted to help children, so she undertook training to become a Very Special Kids Hospice volunteer.


As a trained Occupational Therapist, Kirsty knew about therapy dogs. She set out to find a dog she could train. Olive was a carefully selected puppy and her training has been rigorous at Leading the Way.

To complete the training, dogs must show no hint of aggression and are exposed to noisy and challenging scenarios with children and adults to ensure their suitability for therapy work.

Kirsty explained that at home Olive is a mischievous, bouncy and playful family pet who loves to steal socks and chew shoes. However as soon as she has her special therapy coat on she somehow seems to know she is ready to work and puts her best paw forward!

At first Kirsty kept Olive on her lead, but now Olive leads the way. She seems to intuitively know which children are struggling. She will put her head on their lap, and position herself so they can touch her. Kirsty explained this seems to be something Olive does instinctively and is not something she has been taught.

The children read to Olive, throw balls and take her for walks. Both Kirsty and the staff have been moved and amazed to watch non-verbal and very physically challenged children reach out to Olive. She now has a new role assisting physiotherapist Belinda as she positions children for treatments, encouraging them to reach out and exercise and make their time more fun.


Olive and Kirsty participate fully in the life of the hospice. Every Thursday she can be found working with the children or just chilling on her mat. She loves being part of the art therapy program with Svett (although she is not quite sure about having her paws painted yet) and often joins in on the holiday programs.

Olive has over 20 different costumes and during this interview she was dressed as a shark, as part of the Hospice School Holiday Program’s underwater theme!

“An unexpected and great joy is how the staff have bonded with Olive. We feel much appreciated and valued. Recently a volunteer made Olive special Very Special Kids therapy coats and every Thursday we walk out with a big smile and a wagging tail. Olive and I look forward to giving and receiving love at the Hospice for many years to come” said Kirsty.

Breana takes Olive for a walk

Very Special Kids feels exceptionally lucky to have both Kirsty and Olive’s support.

“The world would be a nicer place if everyone had the ability to love as unconditionally as a dog.” – M.K. Clinton

Road to Respite

Written by Peggy Hogan, Family Support Practitioner at Very Special Kids

The Road to Respite transport vehicle is a new and very unique home-hospice driving service that has received nothing but praise from families who have used it since it was launched earlier this year.

The van is supplied through a partnership with the Royal Flying Doctor Service and driven by a member of their staff. From home pick-up until arrival to the Very Special Kids Hospice in Malvern, the child is also looked after by a Very Special Kids Hospice staff member.

The Bell family, currently planning their next holiday, is one of the families that benefits from the ambulance and are thrilled to use the service this year yet again.

“It gives us two extra days on our holiday and we can relax knowing that our daughter Livi has a safe drive to the hospice” explains Livi’s mother.

The service ensures that Livi’s mum doesn’t need to stress about driving all the way through Melbourne and having to hire a carer to sit with her daughter for the whole journey.

“Livi loves getting in her ‘holiday van’ and she feels comfortable sitting with a Very Special Kids’ staff member in the back. It’s a fun journey for her”.

If you want to start using the Road to Respite service next time your child is staying at Very Special Kids Hospice, make sure to mention it when you make your next hospice booking.