Tag Archives: volunteering

Six adults holding framed award certificates smiling at the camera. Mornington Peninsula Shire Mayor is with them.

Local Champion Award recipient – Roslyn Ferres

One of our remarkable volunteers, Ros Ferres, recently received the Australia Day, Local Champion Award for her long-term dedication and selfless commitment to helping others. This esteemed honour is well-deserved, as Ros has dedicated many years of her life to helping charities like Very Special Kids – supporting our services, since we first opened our doors in 1985.  

Ros shares, “I heard about Very Special Kids through Tattersalls, when I discovered the great work the organisation does, I wanted to help out in any way I could. I always try to fundraise by selling merchandise, knitting quilts and selling items at the stalls.” 

Roslyn, wearing a fun hat, serves children at the ticket booth at the Very Special Kids FairRos has also been a volunteer with the Girl Guides Association for more than 30 years and is involved with numerous community groups assisting in various roles. 

When asked what it is she loves about volunteering Ros shared, “it is nice to be able to help other people. One time while I was out fundraising with another volunteer, a lady asked me about Very Special Kids services. She had a family who was eligible and didn’t realise how much Very Special Kids could help her. Later that year, I saw her at one of the fairs. It was just beautiful to see her family getting the support that they didn’t realise was available to them.” 

While COVID-19 has posed challenges for her level of involvement as a volunteer, Ros has still dedicated her time to knitting quilts for families and fundraising where possible. A modest volunteer, Ros did not expect to receive the Mornington Peninsula Shire’s award.  

Two volunteers selling tickets for rides at the Very Special Kids Fair“I don’t need to be recognised. I just like to help. I have the time and I like to do it. I love volunteering for Very Special Kids, because everyone is treated equally, everyone is always included. It is just a really nice place to be”, she shares.  

“If you are considering volunteering with Very Special Kids, don’t think about it, just do it. A lot of people don’t realise that being a volunteer means a lot more than just supporting at the hospice.

There is plenty of ways you can get involved and make a difference. Local crafts, working at the fair, admin jobs – there is something for everyone and each role plays an important part in making sure families receive the care they need.” 



Bonding over bowling

14-year-old Ricky Ellul from Craigieburn has Neurofibromatosis, a rare condition that causes tumours to grow in his brain. The tumours have affected intellectual development and his sight, meaning he is now legally blind. However, they don’t stop the ever-positive Ricky from playing double bass, the drums and going tenpin bowling.

The uncertainty of Ricky’s future and the complications that come with his condition has put pressure on his family – parents Mario and Silvana, and Kristina (18), Adam (17) and Bianca (15). The family has endured Bianca having back surgery to assist with scoliosis, and Adam will soon have to an operation to correct severe flat-foot.

To help ease the pressure, Ricky and his family have been receiving special help from a trained home volunteer provided by Very Special Kids.

Volunteer Sam Fahnle went through the training in 2014, and now helps the family by taking Ricky out on weekend excursions, including his favourite activity, Tenpin Bowling – an activity Sam also loves.

The few hours without Ricky in the house on the weekend gives Silvana a chance to have a break and help out her other children, and most importantly, Ricky loves his time with Sam.

The friendship between Sam and Ricky has flourished, with Sam attending Ricky’s birthday and being the first person Ricky called when he found out his tumours had slowed their growth.

“Being a boy, it is good for Ricky to have a male friend to talk to,” says Silvana, “Having a male volunteer to spend time with gives Ricky opportunities to do activities he enjoys, but might not get to do as regularly otherwise.”

Sam is buoyed by the knowledge that his volunteering has a positive impact on Ricky and his family and is eager to recommend volunteering with Very Special Kids to other men. “It’s so worthwhile for the family. It’s only a few hours out of my time and it means so much to Ricky,” says Sam.

Please call 9804 6222 to find out more about exciting volunteer opportunities with Very Special Kids.

Meet Dawn McKenzie – Very Special Kids volunteer

80-year-old Dawn McKenzie has been volunteering with Very Special Kids for 20 years, and she’s still going strong.

Dawn first discovered Very Special Kids in 1995 when an advertisement calling for volunteers in her local community newspaper caught her eye.

“I went along to a meeting, did the volunteer training course and it’s been the best thing I ever did,” she said.

As a Family Support Volunteer, Dawn has directly helped four families by providing regular love and support to the child with a life-threatening condition and their family. She says while each family is different, it is all about providing support for the whole family unit.

“My first family I was looking after the father as well, taking him to Monash Medical and I would also take one of the siblings to the movies and work with the child that was non-verbal.”

But more often than not Dawn was there to provide companionship and emotional support for the parents of the sick child or provide respite care. She has been linked with her current family for six years now and continues to provide a tremendous amount of support for them.

“I feel honoured to be part of Very Special Kids, I really do. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done in my life besides have my family,” she said.

In 1997 when the Piggy Bank Appeal began, she joined the Piggy Trails. Since then she has participated in metro and regional trails across Victoria.

Dawn is keen to support Very Special Kids in any way she can and enjoys fundraising by organising movie nights and dinners. Through these events Dawn has raised $105,111 to support the vital work of Very Special Kids.

With an altruistic and friendly spirit, Dawn continues to look forward to volunteering and wishes others would do the same.

“I love being able to meet and help new people. I just think being able to help people is what makes it so special.”

Find out more about volunteering for Very Special Kids


Meet Bill Hearn – Very Special Kids volunteer

Meet Bill Hearn, 68. Bill has been volunteering on the Very Special Kids Piggy Bank Appeal for the past 17 years.

Why do you continue to volunteer for the Piggy Bank Appeal?
Not only is volunteering fun, but you are exposed to a very generous side of humanity. When you explain to people the support given to families by Very Special Kids, they respond in great way.

I am inspired by the work of Very Special Kids Patron Sister Margaret Noone and the passion and compassion she has for supporting children with life-threatening conditions and their families.

Assisting children with life-threatening conditions and their families is so important. The trails are vital in raising awareness of Very Special Kids as well as raising money to support families. Not only does the public need to know about the important work of Very Special Kids, but families need to know where they can access assistance when they need it.

What do you most enjoy about volunteering?
I enjoy meeting the families supported by Very Special Kids and seeing the support they receive not only for their child, but for the whole family. They are the real heroes. It warms my heart to know the tiny bit I contribute is making a contribution to their lives.

I also get a lot of fun out of volunteering. The teams you go on trails with are filled with joy and life and I enjoy meeting other volunteers with different life experiences. I have made hundreds of friends. Some of the people I have been on trails with have become very good friends.

What would you say to someone thinking about volunteering?
Recognising there is not only a real need, but a real opportunity to volunteer is all you really need. You’ll find that your involvement makes as much a difference to yourself as it makes to Very Special Kids and the families and children it supports.

I would also say that volunteering is a good way to keep the grey matter working and a smile on your face. I don’t know of many other ways to help families and have so much fun at once. If you don’t like fun, be careful because you are going to be exposed to a lot of it.

Volunteering is an integral part of the service delivery and fundraising model of Very Special Kids. We are proud that more than 720 volunteers generously give their time to support families of children with life-threatening conditions.

Find out more about volunteering

Meet Alan Hall – Very Special Kids volunteer

For Alan Hall, 76, learning about Very Special Kids was a happy accident. A change of route on his daily walk nine years ago saw him walking past the Very Special Kids Hospice for the first time. Looking for a new volunteer opportunity and curious about the work of Very Special Kids he set about some research.

“I was quickly inspired to help and the next day, I signed up as a volunteer,” says Alan.

Eager to help in any way he can, Alan has spent countless hours volunteering for Very Special Kids over the past nine years and not only during the Piggy Bank Appeal.

He has also volunteered at the Footy Fever Debate, as a Family Support Volunteer, at Sibling Days and at the Altona City Rotary annual charity golf day.

Full of many tales of fun from piggy trails past and looking to create more, Alan is excited about the 2015 Piggy Bank Appeal.

“I’m looking forward to once again being inspired by the generosity of Victorians and telling people about the important work of Very Special Kids,” says Alan.

Alan is keen to volunteer for Very Special Kids for as long as possible.

“Volunteering regenerates me and has made me feel like a better person as a natural consequence of supporting such an inspirational and worthwhile cause,” Alan says.

“It is easy and fun to volunteer for Very Special Kids and I encourage others not to undersell their capacity to volunteer, ” he says.

Volunteering is an integral part of the service delivery and fundraising model of Very Special Kids. We are proud that more than 720 volunteers generously give their time to support families of children with life-threatening conditions.

Find out more about volunteering