November 02, 2016
Very Special Kids makes a very special difference
When Michael Wasley took up the role of as CEO of Very Special Kids (VSK), he was thrilled to be joining an organisation that made a real difference to the lives of children and their families touched by life-threatening illnesses.
Michael joined VSK in May 2016 as an experienced administrator in the not-for-profit sector. He was drawn to VSK's excellent reputation and was keen to roll up his sleeves and have a greater connection with the organisation's front line services such as the children's hospice - co-located with administration offices at VSK's premises on Glenferrie Road, Malvern.
"When a child is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, it affects the whole family," says Michael. "VSK provides services that support the child, their siblings and the parents - free of charge throughout the entire journey."
"We offer parents respite while their child is looked after by our qualified and caring staff. Families can stay onsite in our accommodation units if they feel more comfortable being close by. Our counselling services offer meaningful support and advice and our palliative care is all about making children feel comfortable and loved at the very end of their lives.
"VSK runs camps and outdoor activities for the children who are able to take part and offer a special sibling program to help them adjust, understand and remain positive in what can be an extended period of anxiety."
Michael, whose own teenage daughters volunteer their time to take part in fundraising activities, says VSK could not perform the vital work they do each day without the financial and volunteer support of organisations such as Jellis Craig, whose own Foundation has donated both staff time and money to ensure the children and families who rely on VSK's services can access the care they need.
"Funds raised through activities such as VSK's Piggy Bank Appeal, which travels all over Victoria raising awareness and collecting donations, contribute 75 per cent of our annual budget of around $5.5 million." Michael credits VSK's incredible staff, together with a database of more than 700 volunteers, with the ongoing success of VSK and the continued delivery of the vital support services. On any given day of the year, around 960 families are being supported by VSK and their the programs offered at Glenferrie Road and eight counselling centres across Victoria.
When Michael first arrived at VSK, he experienced first hand what an amazing job his team were doing. By spending a shift assisting in the palliative care centre, he was able to experience the positivity and uplifting nature of the work VSK carers undertake, even when there is often a predetermined outcome.
Very Special Kids was started in 1985 under the guidance of Sister Margaret Noone who identified the clear need for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families to access support services free of charge. It was her tenacity that secured the long-term lease from the state government of the picturesque and historical premises at Glenferrie Road, and her vision that was realised when the hospice and family accommodation units were opened. Today, Sister Margaret is VSK's patron and she still loves to walk around the centre and meet the families who are able to access the support they need thanks to making VSK her lifelong mission.