The 91st annual Good Friday Appeal has raised a record-breaking $22,328,154 through the generosity of Victorians — smashing last year’s tally of $17.1m.
The 91st annual Good Friday Appeal has raised a record-breaking $22,328,154, smashing last year’s tally of $17.1m.
The previous fundraising record was $18.2m in 2020.
Victorians dug deep to help the Royal Children’s Hospital make a difference in the lives of sick children and their families.
Phones rang off the hook and tin rattlers scattered throughout Victoria while at The Royal Children’s Hospital kids and families looked on in awe as superheroes and movie characters whirled through the halls.
Good Friday Appeal chair Penny Fowler thanked the Victorian community for their generosity this year after doing it tough during the pandemic.
“It is a people’s Appeal and it’s all about everyone giving a little bit – $5, $10, $20 – I think that’s what makes it special,” Ms Fowler said.
She added it was “fantastic” the federal and state governments matched each other’s $2m donations.
“To come and help us when we’re coming out of Covid is really great initiative and we are so appreciative for that.
Earlier, she said: “It puts us in a really good place – hopefully we might break the record from last year”.
Managing Director Seven Melbourne and Head of Network Sport, Lewis Martin said: “It was an honour and a privilege to bring the sheer joy and heart-warming stories of the Good Friday Appeal to Australians, on a truly special day on the Victorian calendar.
“To see Victorians rally together and dig deep to support the Good Friday Appeal, after an incredibly difficult two years during the pandemic, proves how special The Royal Children’s Hospital is to all of us.
“The Appeal is a great partnership between The Royal Children’s Hospital, Channel 7 and the Herald Sun and we’re rapt by how Victorians responded this year,” he said.
Milestone federal government cash injection
The Good Friday Appeal will receive a $2m shot in the arm from the Morrison government.
Scott Morrison announced the donation on Friday, which is the first time the federal government has contributed to the appeal for The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.
It gives the appeal a major boost to reach a new fundraising record in its 91st year.
“Our youngest Australians deserve all the support and care we can give them when they’re in need,” the Prime Minister told the Herald Sun.
“This $2m pledge is a first from the federal government because we want to support the generous and significant commitment from the community, and help encourage even more people to get involved.”
“This isn’t just about backing the doctors, nurses and carers who make such a difference, it’s about supporting the services that help these young patients’ families too.”
The state government chipped in $2.5m to the appeal last year when $17.1m raised overall and has pledged $2m at this year’s appeal, just below the record set in 2020 of $18.2m.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt encouraged Victorians to donate, saying their contributions “quite literally help to save lives and protect lives”.
“As a Victorian, I know the Good Friday Appeal forms part of so many Easter celebrations here in the state,” Mr Hunt said.
“For over 90 years, they’ve raised funds to help deliver care and support for not just sick kids, but for their families helping them through their battles.”
“These donations help to drive research and innovation, secure funds for new equipment, improve patient and family care, as well as additional education and training for staff.
The Prime Minister paid a visit to the Good Friday Appeal’s phone room, quickly making the stop following a day in Melbourne as part of his election campaign.
Scott Morrison toured the phone room with Good Friday Appeal chairman Penny Fowler, speaking with some of the volunteer call takers who have been busy accepting donations from thousands of Victorians.
Mr Morrison also spoke with three-year-old Alex Wyatt, who is battling acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and is one of the Good Friday Appeal’s little ambassadors.
Since 1931, the Good Friday Appeal has raised $399m for The Royal Children’s Hospital.
Good Friday Appeal ‘a really big celebration’
Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp said she was thrilled the Kids Day Out event drew thousands of families to the city this Good Friday.
“The Good Friday Appeal is about caring for community, it’s about families and it’s a great way for us to be part of such an important initiative and also give families a reason to come to the city on Good Friday,” Ms Capp told the Herald Sun.
“As I look around now, I’m literally getting goosebumps because it’s just wonderful to see so many people here and enjoying it.”
The City of Melbourne has partnered with the Good Friday Appeal to sponsor Kids Day Out, providing carnival rides and entertainment for families to enjoy.
“Our support for this event is really to provide the fun for what is a very serious issue,” Ms Capp said.
“The Good Friday appeal is legendary and we’re hoping for another record. I think it’s also a reminder at Easter time just how important family is and that there are some families doing it really tough.
“Today is a really big celebration and one we’re happy to be part of.”
Vic government’s $2m pledge to RCH
Premier Daniel Andrews has pledged $2m to the Good Friday Appeal on behalf of the Victorian government, adding he was confident it would help beat the total of $17m raised last year.
The Premier stopped by the huge event on Friday, thanking volunteers and call takers.
He said the Royal Children’s Hospital was “the best paediatric hospital anywhere in the world”.
“(It) provides care and support and changes lives — saves lives — every single day,” he said.
“I think that for every parent, indeed for every Victorian, the Royal Children’s Hospital has a very special place in our hearts.”
GFA’s Kids Day Out back after two years
The Good Friday Appeal’s Kids Day Out has returned to the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre for the first time in two years.
Featuring a mini film festival, carnival rides, the Woolworths Fresh Fair and the famous Teddy Bear Hospital – which is running check-up sessions all day – the family fun event is set to put a smile on every child’s face.
Entry to Kids Day Out is free, with activities ranging from $5 to $10 and all proceeds donated to The Royal Children’s Hospital.
Art Exhibition The Lume, which is showing at the Convention Centre, will also donate 25 per cent of all ticket sales made on Friday to the Appeal.
Good Friday Appeal Executive Director Rebecca Cowan said she was thrilled to see the event back in full swing after a two year hiatus caused by the pandemic.
“With the return of Kids Day Out this year, we expect to see more than 40,000 people enjoying a day of family fun, all with the aim of raising funds for a world-class hospital,” Ms Cowan said.
“We understand how challenging the last two years have been for Victorians during these uncertain times and are appreciative to everyone who has given, as well as those who support the Appeal each and every year.”
Having raised $399m to date, the Good Friday Appeal was on Friday morning set to reach a massive milestone, with organisers expecting to surpass $400m in donations.
Donations will go towards the Children’s Cancer Centre, allowing the centre to develop the latest learnings and practice of cancer care to support children, adolescents and their families.
Thousands of Victorians took to the streets on Friday, rattling tins and attending fundraising events to raise money for the cause.
On top of the Kids Day Out, a range of fun events could be enjoyed from home, including the AFL SuperClash between North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs, and the Channel 7 Telethon broadcast, which ran from 12pm.
Good Friday Appeal little ambassador eight-year-old Isla Magann said her favourite part of the Kids Day Out was the Teddy Bear Hospital.
Isla is now in remission after spending half her life at the Royal Children’s Hospital being treated for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.
Mum Leanne said their experience at the hospital was “incredible” and that Isla only talks about “the good memories” from her time spent there, including art and music therapy.
“My daughter has been fighting a health battle for the last five years. The Appeal has just given us everything and saved her life – the hospital wouldn’t be what it is without it. It’s really close to my heart,” Ms Magann said.
“Now she’s absolutely just smashing it at life.”
Isla said she was grateful for the Good Friday Appeal and loved the Kids Day Out, telling the Herald Sun: “Thank you to everyone for your donation to the Good Friday Appeal”.
Teddy Bear Hospital volunteer and University of Melbourne medical student Katherine Cyr said playing doctor to make the kids smile was extremely rewarding.
“To come out here and just support the Children’s Hospital, which gives them the best care possible, and hearing stories from the kids is really inspiring,” the 25-year-old student said.
“They’re so creative and it’s amazing to see how nurturing they are with their animals and teddies.”
The University of Melbourne runs the Teddy Bear Hospital through their medicine, dentistry and health sciences faculty, with students volunteering as doctors and giving mock consultations to kids and their teddies
RCH lights up for Good Friday Appeal
A performance by Australian pop group Human Nature kicked off the 91st annual Good Friday Appeal on Friday morning.
Their a cappella performance of John Farnham’s Every Time You Cry attracted kids, parents and workers alike who began filtering through the hospital about 8.30am.
The main lobby of the Royal Children’s Hospital was abuzz with music as children watched the Easter Bunny hop through the hospital.
Children and their families also had the chance to be photographed with Spider-Man and Superman, who was accompanied by princesses and dragons.
Eleven-year-old Maddy’s face lit up as she saw the Easter Bunny.
Now battling leukaemia that was detected in her Maddy’s spinal child after overcoming leukocytoclastic leukaemia in 2018, mother Sarah Higginson said the pair were met with compassion and kindness when doctors put them on the first available flight from Hobart to Melbourne for specialist treatment.
“The doctors took me into another room to tell me what it was, and I was floored,” Ms Higginson said.
“We packed up all of our things, said goodbye to our two beautiful dogs and booked a midnight flight to Melbourne.
“All of the nurses here, and all of the people you meet — they’re just amazing.
“We absolutely love them. The doctors are incredible, and there are so many that we are comfortable with.
“We are so lucky.”
RCH helps inspiring Isla live a life of fun
With every new word or skill Isla Hulm learnt in her first year of life, there was a worrying nag in the back of her parents’ mind that she was using up valuable brain space.
But now, after radical surgery to correct the shape of their daughter’s skull and free her rapidly growing brain, Matilda Gribble and Kieran Hulm are relishing the chance to watch their firstborn thrive.
“It’s comforting to know that little brain can grow as much as it needs to now, and we can watch her progress freely,” Ms Gribble said.
Isla’s prominent forehead was mentioned by a paediatric after birth, but given this feature also runs in the Gribble family they put this down to pedigree and got on with enjoying their newborn.
It wasn’t until an osteopath and private maternal health nurse suggested the shape of Isla’s head warranted further investigation and a referral to the Royal Children’s Hospital was made, that they learnt Isla faced surgery.
Over a telehealth appointment, the specialist took photos of the then eight-month-old’s head from all angles, and the word “craniosynostosis” was first mentioned.
This rare craniofacial birth defect occurs when the plates of the skull fuse too early and cannot slowly move apart over the first few years of life to make space for the developing brain.
Without surgery, pressure inside the brain builds up and the condition is fatal.
In Isla’s case the two major sutures at the back of the head – the flexible fibrous bands of tissue that connect the bones of the skull – had prematurely joined, pushing her forehead out and narrowing the back of the head.
Surgeons have a small window to pick their time to intervene. The child needs to be strong enough and old enough to tolerate such major surgery, but also young enough that the remaining sutures have not fused and the skull bones are still soft.
And for Isla, now 11 months old, her surgery two weeks ago came just in time.
Head of craniofacial surgery at the RCH, Jonathan Burge, said he originally suspected the tests showing increased pressure in Isla’s brain were inaccurate, given how young she was.
But once inside they could confirm the results were right.
The distorted skull shape was already causing her vision to be blurred and the optic nerve – which connects the eyes to the brain – to become swollen.
Veins draining fluid from the back of her brain were compressed, further increasing pressure inside the brain.
Up to 80 children have cranial vault surgery, to correct the shape of their head and allow for normal brain growth, at the RCH each year.
But the version Isla needed, a posterior vault reconstruction, is less common.
Over seven hours, with Isla lying face down on the operating table, Mr Burge removed the back portion of her skull.
Using a titanium model of an ideal skull shape – an invention he helped create during his fellowship in the US, based on the head shapes of 62 children – this gave them a mould of an average skull shape for an 11-month old.
This piece of posterior skull bone was cut into five pieces and put back together like a jigsaw puzzle to closely model the ideal shape, but also leave enough room for Isla’s growing head and brain to fill it out.
“You have to look at the anatomy of the head; firstly what part of the brain is being compressed, and secondly the shape of the head and where you can gain space without affecting the look,” Mr Burge said.
“You’ve got a set of surgical skills and tools in your box and you have to think about what ones you want to apply to each baby.
“You don’t just want the perfect shape in a reconstruction, we overexpand it.
“We rely on the sutures of the bone (to create the right head shape) up until about three years of age, but after that we think we’re not so dependent on them.
“Our style of growth in the skull changes, so we just try to jump-start them to that stage where they can start growing in a different pattern.”
Isla came into the world a curious and alert baby, who wanted to be part of everything.
She never liked to be cradled like other infants, instead wanting to sit more upright for a better view of the world.
She learnt sign language to ask for milk at six months of age.
Before surgery Isla was not far off walking. She continued to learn new words during her week-long recovery in hospital – page, wow and hello nurse – a reassuring sign to her parents that their little girl is raring to get back to learning and living.
“We were both so ready for her to have this surgery done,” said Kieran.
“She’s a child who is always looking around, trying to learn something new and I want her to be able to keep doing that.
“I don’t want to worry that every time she says a new word thinking, that’s great, but you need to stop learning things to save that brain space.
“I wish for her that we can put it behind us a little bit and have a bit more fun as a family.”