Coles serving up hope for country families at the field days

August 12, 2015

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John Studdert and Ellie Webb will be among the Country Hope staff and volunteers to man a fund raising barbecue with Coles at Henty.

Field day visitors have raised almost $20,000 for Riverina charity Country Hope through a community barbecue initiated by Coles over the past three years.

Coles staff volunteer their time to work with Country Hope staff and volunteers to cook up a feast for hungry field day patrons, with all proceeds going towards the Wagga based not-for-profit organisation.

Country Hope manager and family liaison officer Ellie Webb said $7000 was raised last year to bring the total to $19,500 for the three years at Henty.

“That’s amazing and we are so pleased to be back on board again this year,’’ Mrs Webb said.

Country Hope is dedicated to supporting regional families of children with cancer and other life threatening illnesses.

Since its foundation in Wagga in 2003, Country Hope has expanded to Albury and Griffith, providing support programs for children aged from birth to 16 years.

Over the past 12 years, a total of 180 Riverina and Murray Valley families have been assisted, with 118 of those on-going.

Country Hope was established by a small group of visionaries, Alan Lean, Babs Donaldson, Yvonne Braid, Ged Madden, Steve Dwyer, Rod Dunlop and the late Peter Walsh.

Retired businessman John Studdert was been chairman since 2006.

“Country Hope has grown every year and up until 2015, we’ve had a minimum of 15 regional children diagnosed with cancer or a life threatening illness a year,’’ Mr Studdert said.

“So far this year we have six – we support these families throughout their child’s illness and beyond.

“Our aim is to have no children diagnosed – that would be wonderful.’’

Country Hope provides tailored financial, practical and emotional support through a family care program, a specialised family liaison team during hospital care, family holiday accommodation and an annual camp.

Held each September, the camp is a fun filled week of respite and enjoyment when diagnosed children can take time out from the reality of their treatment and stresses associated with their medical condition.

Each child is accompanied by a carer, medical staff and volunteer – a total team of around 165 people including the campers.

Mr Studdert said Country Hope caters for families in a 200km radius of Wagga, bounded by Griffith, Lake Cargellico, Young, Tumbarumba, Albury-Wodonga and Shepparton.

“Most families are referred to us by other families they meet in hospital, while others are referred by social workers in the hospitals, contact us directly or hear of Country Hope by word-of-mouth,’’ he said.

“To run the organisation, we need almost $500,000 a year of which $300,000 goes to the families in direct support.’’

Fund raising functions and events are held throughout the year, while local Rotary clubs have also been generous with donations.

“We continually apply for grants from different foundations, we get a lot of knock backs but still achieve a few and it’s getting tougher,’’ Mr Studdert said.

“There are so many organisations all asking for the one dollar but the local community has been absolutely fantastic in its support for us.’’

Mr Studdert has manned the Country Hope stand at the Henty Machinery Field Days since 2008.

“The involvement of Coles over the last three years has been enormous – their idea to have a barbecue and promote Country Hope demonstrates how a big corporate can help the little person,’’ he said.

“They also raised funds for the Henty hospital last year.’’

Mrs Webb said Country Hope was always on the look out for volunteers.

“Our volunteers help with the raffles and fund raising, and others are carers for the annual camp,’’ she said.

“Many of the diagnosed children go on to become trainee carers once they turn 17.

“Our volunteers are aged from 18 to 60 plus.’’

Mrs Webb said Country Hope would not be expanded further but other regions were welcome to duplicate the model.

She said staff heard many success stories where diagnosed children had gone on to lead normal lives.

Mrs Webb said medical specialists were now offering services regionally, easing the expense of travelling for many families of diagnosed children.

Coles Centro Albury store manager Andrew McGrath said the field days were a great opportunity to fundraise for a cause close to many hearts in the Riverina, Murray and North East regions.

“Farmers and regional communities truly appreciate the difficulties inherent with requiring intensive medical care when living in a rural location,’’ Mr McGrath said.