L-R Craig, Chloe, Connor and Renee Avenell at the Special Children's Christmas Party.
L-R Craig, Chloe, Connor and Renee Avenell at the Special Children's Christmas Party.

Annual party brings smiles to Rocky’s special needs families

ROCKHAMPTON children and their families were treated to early Christmas cheer at the annual Rockhampton Special Children’s Christmas Party at the Rockhampton Showgrounds on the weekend, supported entirely by local businesses and volunteers.

The party brought together around 4,000 children with special needs and their families, with invitations sent out to local schools, hospitals, and clinics for the Saturday event.

“The party gives these families a short break from their day-to-day, and gives them memories of their children at a Christmas party with lots of other children, and of their family laughing and having fun together, relaxed and revived,” organiser Annemarie Hodson said.

The free of charge party had food, drink, ice-cream, presents, rides, activities, entertainment and support services, including charity, community groups and professional carers available for the children and their families to enjoy and use.

The event is the only one of its kind for the area, and has been running annually since 1993, with over 32,000 children invited over the years.

The party supports Ronald McDonald House Charities North Australia.

George White, who has come along as the event’s Santa Clause fro 23 years, also received the Order of Australia Medal last month for Services to Children.

“Sometimes we don’t know how to help. We want to but we don’t know how,” Ms Hodson said.

“These businesses have chosen to lend a hand to local families by supporting the Special Children’s Christmas Party.

“Because sometimes it’s enough just to give someone a time to be happy.”

The party is not only for children to enjoy themselves for the day, but also for parents to benefit from the opportunity to network and gain strength from each other’s experiences.

“We are finding a second generation of families benefiting from these events,” Ms Hodson said.

“In circumstances where a condition has a genetic link, parents who attended in the early days are now bringing their own children.

“The memory of their childhood experience is so strong, they are very grateful to give their own kids the chance to experience the inclusion and generosity demonstrated by the community.”

Ronald McDonald acting CEO Denise Lumsden said putting smiles on children’s faces at the Special Children’s Christmas Parties is something her volunteers look forward to each year.

“Christmas is a special time for children but it can be especially difficult when families are juggling the needs of a sick child during the holiday season,” she said.

“Having ongoing generous support from Special Children’s Christmas Parties means that our charity can provide practical and supportive care through the five programs we operate across the North Australia region, allowing families to focus on their child’s recovery.”

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