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Greater funding to create greater Smiles for children in hospital

A trip to a hospital emergency department can be traumatic for a child and their family. It’s one that Michelle Key knows all too well, having experienced it with all three of her sons.

It was these experiences that prompted her and two friends to establish Smiles2U, the winner of Greater Bank’s September round of the #GreaterCentralCoast program.

For taking our the public vote, Smiles2U received $2000, while runners up Bears of Hope Pregnancy and Infant Loss Community Garden and Wyong Neighbourhood Centre Inc. have both received $500.

The volunteer run charity produces age-specific care packages and essentails packs that are supplied to 12 hospitals from Newcastle to Sydney’s North Shore, including Gosford Private Hospital and Wyong Hospital.

The Care Packages contain age-specific toys, books, games and stickers, to help alleviate stress, fear and boredom for a child waiting for treatment, while the Essentials Packs contain a range of toiletry items for both the child and parents.

“You’re never really prepared for an emergency dash to hospital and usually have no time to think about what you need to take or how long the hospital stay may last,” Michelle explained.

“After experiencing this three times with my children and speaking to two friends who had been through similar experiences, we recognised a real need to provide something to families to keep the child occupied and also distracted from what can be a scary experience in hospital, but also those essential items for parents if they need to stay overnight.

“That’s where the idea started and over the past six years we have produced 11,440 packages that have been provided free of charge to families across 12 hospitals.

“We are self-funded and rely heavily on fundraising activities and donations. This contribution from Greater Bank is huge, particularly given the fact that COVID has has such an impact on our fundraising efforts.”

Michelle Key, Smiles2U Founder

Michelle said that over the past 18 months they have recognised a need to provide more specific support for children with sensory issues as well as teenagers dealing with mental health issues. The $2000 from Greater Bank will go towards developing these packs.

“Hospitalisation for children with sensory issues, such as an Autism or ADHD diagnosis, can be exceptionally traumatic and we are looking to develop packs that include a range of toys and activities that can have a calming affect on the sensory overload that the experience my trigger,” Michelle said.

“The packs we’re looking to develop for teens with mental health challenges will include mindfulness items such as books and affirmation cards.

“The feedback we have received from parents and children has been incredible. There have been so many instances where they expressed how relieved their child was to receive the bag to take the focus off their procedure. They are so grateful and it make us love what we do.”

Greater Bank’s Central Coast Regional Sales Manager, Josh Swetnam, said that Smiles2U is a wonderful example of how these commununty funding contributions are making such a significant impact on the community.

“Smiles2U was born out of a lived experience, and now, so many families are benefiting from the wonderful contribution Michelle and her team of volunteers are making to the community,” Josh said.

“The care packages are such a simple concept but are making a huge difference to the families who are going though what can be very traumatic experiences. We are delighted to be supporting their efforts through the #GreaterCentralCoast program.”

The October round of the #GreaterCentralCoast community funding program will focus on organisations that have played a vital role in supporting those most in need during these difficult COVID lockdowns. It’s a way of saying ‘thank you’ for the incredible work they have been undertaking and providing some financial support that will allow them to continue to support their community.

Lakes Food Care at Toukley Neighbourhood Centre, Coast Hands and Central Coast Family Support Services are in contention for the share in the monthly funding of $3,000.

The public can cast their vote online at Voting for the October funding round closes at 5:00pm, Wednesday, 27 October 2021.

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