Written by volunteer, Georgie Johnstone
Sunday 6 August. For many Melburnians, another cold, dreary morning, but for Very Special Kids families, staff and a few lucky volunteers, it was a very special occasion indeed – the first chance for families to experience the new Very Special Kids House.
As families entered, any initial apprehension quickly turned to amazement and appreciation for the hard work over the last few years, spearheaded by Sister Margaret and CEO Michael Wasley.
Guiding families around was such an honour. Faces old and new took in the new fish tank, the dedicated adolescent room and the 360-degree outdoor area festooned with colourful birds. The new soft play area, music/art space and ever popular, upgraded sensory room got an absolute workout.
Accommodation was explored, from the abundance of storage space, the thoughtful concealment of medical equipment, alongside hoist tracks ensuring access throughout.
One child wouldn’t leave until they’d thoroughly checked out every room before picking the “best” one for their future stay! The highlight for many was the balmy hydrotherapy pool, with physio Belinda welcoming in families who queued up like entering an exclusive club!
But more than the state-of-the-art facilities, it was the vibrancy and warmth bought to Very Special Kids House by those present. It was Kirsty, the Hospice Manager and her wonderful team creating the space and time to connect with families, answer as many questions as they needed, and the disbelief in parents’ eyes when they heard “Yes, this is free”.
It was family members who reminisced on times both happy and sad spent at the old hospice, and the bittersweet emotions for those who didn’t have the opportunity to. But most of all it was the energy of the kids, doing laps around Sister Margaret in their wheelchairs, pounding the drumskins without a care in the world, full of joy, smiles and laughter.
As families, staff and volunteers make the jump into full operations over the next few weeks, it is this energy and compassion we all bring which will make Very Special Kids House, truly a home away from home.