Monthly Archives: October 2021

South of the River Choir

On Sunday 24 October, our annual Remembrance Day gave bereaved families an opportunity to connect and remember their children. For a fourth year South of the River community choir, based in Stonnington, generously contributed to the day and you can view their beautiful piece below.

The 28-voice a cappella ensemble celebrates diversity and harmony through a shared passion for singing the music and rhythms of Africa, traditional African American gospel and original Australian compositions, rehearsing (in non-COVID-19 times) in the newly renovated Armadale Community Arts Hub. The choir has firmly established itself in the Melbourne Music scene, as regular festival performers and finalists in the ABC CLASSIC FM “Choir Of The Year” Awards. They also perform for City of Stonnington’s annual Carols By Candlelight at Central and Como Parks.

The choir connection with Very Special Kids began when Mary Ryder, one of our then Family Support Practitioners, who is also a choir member, suggested that some additional music at the ceremony might enhance the experience for bereaved families and staff. Mary felt her own participation in the choir and shared music supported her well-being and work with families, so she approached choir director, Annemarie Sharry, who has led the choir for 19 years.

Annemarie and the choir immediately responded with enthusiasm and in 2018 and 2019 the choir rehearsed hard and joined bereaved families and Very Special Kids staff at the town hall to sing on Remembrance Day. Feedback from families and staff was positive and the choir felt privileged and moved to share the occasion.

Unfortunately COVID-19 has meant Remembrance Day could not be held in person last year or this year. However, South of the River Choir has provided singing, additional music, and video for the online Heart and Hands Project. Each individual choir member has faced the challenge of recording both sound and video at home for the online event, but it has been a contribution the choir was keen to make.

Their choice of song this year –  ‘The Gift ‘ (composer Lisa Young/ originally recorded by Coco’s Lunch) – was especially appropriate as the choir strongly wanted to give something to the Very Special Kids community of families and staff in these especially challenging times.

We very much hope that the choir connection will continue and maybe 2022 will be the year the choir can once again join Very Special Kids bereaved families in person. We are grateful and privileged to have an ongoing relationship with this talented group of singers.

Virtual challenge raises over $33,000

Not even a global pandemic could dampen the spirits of the Frankston community on Sunday, when ten teams, and more than 80 individuals, took part in the virtual Rotary Frankston Sunrise Virtual Treadmill / Bike Challenge to support Very Special Kids.

The first Rotary Frankston Sunrise Challenge in 2019 was a face-to-face event, held at Core24 Health Clubs’ Frankston location, and raised more than $23,000. This year, the Rotary Club set their sights even higher with a goal of raising $30,000 for children with life-limiting conditions and their families across Victoria.

When the face-to-face event was impacted by COVID-19 restrictions, the organising committee of Mark Rees, Peter Cracknell, Greg Sharman and Robert Maitz looked to other ways participants could still be involved. Joe Russo, owner of Core24, helped create an online event by providing a challenging 30-minute virtual workout for participants, in lieu of the 30-minute walk, run or ride they had initially committed to.

When the event day arrived, more than $32,000 had been raised, with significant contributions from 10 teams generously sponsored by a range of local businesses. To see the full list of teams, click here.

The virtual event was hosted by Very Special Kids ambassador Jimmy Rees, who has a personal connection through his 10-year-old nephew Rye, who is cared for by Very Special Kids.

Michael Wasley, Chief Executive Officer of Very Special Kids said it was a great celebration of the local community coming together in support of seriously ill children and their families.
“As a predominantly self-funded organisation, we rely on the generosity of the community to continue offering our essential services to children and families across Victoria. We are so grateful to everyone who helped make the challenge a success and our heartfelt thanks goes to all involved in the Rotary Frankston Sunrise Challenge”.

If you are interested in hosting an event to support Very Special Kids, click here for more information or contact Brigitte on

PayPal supporting Very Special Kids

Very Special Kids is excited to be featuring as part of PayPal Give at Checkout program this month! Through the program, customers can add a $1 donation to any purchase, and can set Very Special Kids as their favourite charity for the Give at Checkout program in the PayPal app.

We’re also proud to work alongside the very entertaining Jimmy Rees, whose 10-year-old nephew Rye has been cared for by Very Special Kids since 2016. Jimmy has seen first-hand the challenges that Rye and his family have faced, and how they have been supported throughout their journey of having a child with a life-limiting condition.

Adding a donation to Very Special Kids through the Give at Checkout program will help improve the quality of life for seriously-ill children just like Rye and their families.

You can read more about Rye’s story here.

World Hospice and Palliative Care Day

The story of Very Special Kids is the story of the thousands of heart-warming moments that our hospice has contributed to each and every year since it opened. Saturday 9 October is World Hospice and Palliative Care Day and an opportunity to celebrate that story with an eye to what’s ahead.

It all started in 1984, when two families who were supporting each other through the trauma of their children’s terminal illnesses recognised a need for help for other families like theirs. As more people came together with this shared desire, our organisation was born.

It was the steadfast vision of our first employee and Patron, Sister Margaret Noone AM, who decided that there was a huge need for specialised palliative care and a home-away-from-home for children, both for respite and end-of-life care. The Very Special Kids hospice was then established in 1996, making it the first paediatric hospice opened in Australia and remains the only children’s hospice in Victoria today.

Our purpose is the same today as it was when we were founded over 35 years ago. We work tirelessly to bring our purpose to life; improving the quality of life for children with life-limiting conditions and their families through specialist children’s palliative care across Victoria.

The hospice also provides a much-needed break for parents who are often the sole, round-the-clock carers. It also offers essential support with family counselling and programs for siblings of sick children to guide them through difficult times.

Now, in its most significant service improvement project ever, we are embarking on a complete rebuild of our hospice with a completion date of 2023.

Very Special Kids Chief Executive Officer Michael Wasley said the organisation has spent more than three years researching what will make the new build the world’s best hospice.

“The new hospice will be world-class with state-of-the-art and best-practice clinical facilities to better support children of every age, size, nationality and functional capability. It will offer more specialised services for children as well as a semi-private space for adolescents to better respect their maturity and desire for independence. There will also be a dedicated area to allow for greater privacy and space to support a family’s final wishes for their child,” he said.

As we look back to look forward, we reflect on the history of Very Special Kids, the milestones and alliances along the way and where we are today. We have come so far, but we still have so much more to do to change the future of children’s palliative care.

A Very Special Day

Our wonderful community never ceases to amaze! We are excited to announce that A Very Special Day has raised over $700,000! Our heartfelt thanks go out to everyone who donated, shared our story, volunteered your time and helped us reach our target for children with life-limiting conditions and their families.

Thanks to this incredible community effort these vital funds will help ensure Very Special Kids can continue providing specialist palliative care for children with life-limiting conditions, improving overall quality of life for them and their families today and well into the future.

We have so many fond memories of the last 24-hours. We have witnessed an outpouring of support, including:

  • Families fundraising on behalf of Very Special Kids, many in memory of their loved one. These beautiful people who know the pain of navigating the life-limiting illness of their own children and what it means to have the offer of specialist support services – we are in awe of their strength and willingness to help.
  • People giving whatever they can manage. It doesn’t matter if it was $5 or $500 – today was about coming together as a community and maximising our impact together, and we’ve done just that. What an incredible thing to witness!
  • Watching the comments roll in as people made their gifts. What a special community of families and supporters we have. Thank you to each and every one of you who donated, but also sent a kind message. We pour over them, and please know how much they are appreciated along with your support.
  • Watching the tally creep up! At the end of the day this is what it was all about.

A Very Special Day wouldn’t be possible without the generous support of our matched givers – the Highland Foundation, John Wheeler and Sue Hadden, ALH Group, Simply Energy, Lowe Living, and other individual and anonymous supporters. Thank you for your commitment to helping care for children and families across Victoria.

To keep up to date with our latest news, events and the impact of A Very Special Day follow us on our socials or sign up to our newsletter.