Since its inception three decades ago, Wings For Kids Inc. Sunraysia Mallee has brought joy and happiness to more than 1000 Sunraysia children and their families. Caitlyn Morgan chats to volunteers and Sunraysia residents about the impact the charity has made on the lives of those in our community.
WINGS for Kids Inc. Sunraysia Mallee has grown from a small group of Sunraysia women wanting to make a difference to a non-for-profit organisation that has had more than 90 members and been supporting members of the Sunraysia community for 30 years.
The original group “The Crippled Children’s Association” (CCA) was affiliated with Regency Park in Adelaide.
“In those early days although the main priority of the group was to fundraise, it was more of a social group,” secretary Jennie Waller recalls.
“Our local children with special needs were supported by CCA as Mildura was so much closer to Adelaide than it was to Melbourne. Any monies raised were sent down to CCA.”
In 1989, due to policy changes CCA was no longer able to assist local children and the group looked for alternatives.
“Yooralla was an option along with Canteen and Camp Quality but after much soul searching a decision was made to stand alone, assist our local children, fundraise locally and use those fund purely locally. Locals helping locals,” Jennie says.
“By standing alone, the group had to become a tax deductible charity and many ideas for a name change were put forward, resulting in the Champions for Children Auxiliary Inc.
“Champions operated very successfully for a number of years and became well known in the community for helping our kids.
“A few years later a much larger corporate charity was catapulted into the public arena by Mallee Family Care and was named Chances for Children.
Each organisation was supporting quite different areas of the community very successfully but the similarity in names began to cause confusion with the public.”
In 2003 members decided to re-invent themselves once more and Wings For Kids Inc. Sunraysia Mallee was officially registered.
“A butterfly became the motif and a motto was adopted of ‘giving them wings so that one day they will fly by themselves’,” Jennie says.
“Over the years numbers have grown and meeting places changed from our private homes to The Settlers Club, The Grand Hotel, The Cottonwood Motel.
“For many years now we have met once a month in the Community Rooms at Princes Court Village and members of the group have never exceeded 28 in number although some come and gone over the years with a total of 96 members all up. Each year we strive to hold as many fundraising events as possible.”
THE non-for-profit organisation aims to raise funds to assist in the purchase of specialised medical equipment, aids and support for children with a disability and chronic illnesses and their families in the vast geographical area of Sunraysia Mallee, after government and other funding sources have been exhausted or are not available.
Wings for Kids receive formal referrals from allied health professionals including physiotherapists, speech pathologists, occupational therapist, along with medical practitioners, Mildura early intervention services, community care options, Mildura Specialist School and the Department of Education and Training Visiting Teacher Services.
Meeting on the first Monday of each month, volunteers have a chance to discuss requests for assistance and referrals, with the group investigating each request case by case.
Each year the number of families Wings for Kids support varies, with more than 17 families receiving support in the 2017/18 financial year.
Support that year included the purchase of a specialised stroller, a weighted blanket, a specialised support car seat, communication aids, a wheelchair strap and a walking aid.
FROM film nights to fashion parades and sausage sizzles, the Wings for Kids volunteers are kept busy fundraising throughout the year.
While the public may be unaware of all of their fundraising events, one that is hard to miss is the regular gift-wrapping fundraisers at Mildura Central.
They have been the life-savers for many people who don’t have enough time or simply don’t know how to wrap a Christmas present or Mother’s Day gift.
“We have had bikes, a suitcase and odd shaped boxes, one year we even wrapped an engagement ring,” treasurer Gill Roberts says.
“We wrap hundreds of presents each year many for children, grandmothers and we gets lots of husbands and boyfriends wanting presents wrapped.
“It’s a great way to talk to people in the community and let them know about Wings for Kids.”
Members start preparing all of the handmade decorations in September, which add a special touch to the many thousands of presents they wrap.
A life-changing gift
Sharmeen Sandhu’s family is among those who have seen the impact the funds raised by Wings for Kids Inc can make.
Earlier this year, five-and-half-year-old Sharmeen received a brand new customised bike built by Solve Disability Solutions.
“Having cerebral palsy has meant there are many things I feel she misses out on because of her mobility but with the help of her physiotherapist Rowena Keenan, a special bike has been made for her, so now she doesn’t have to miss out,” her mother Anmna Hafeez says.
“She was super excited and happy, she couldn’t stop smiling when she saw the bike.
“It has already changed her life, she has so much confidence.
“It’s something that is so important for her. She is learning the road rules and building strength in her arms and legs.”
The bike has been built to last Sharmeen many years, with various areas able to be adjusted to suit when she grows taller.