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Local Legend to Bring Christmas Cheer to Sick Kids

By Siriol Dafydd on November 27, 2018 in News

The real Santa Claus, by James Hutton

Local inspiration and all-round legend Mal Ward is once again bringing the community together to brighten up the Christmas of sick kids and their families.

The Christmas holidays can be a particularly tough time for a child stuck in hospital, but not on Wardy’s watch!

For those of you who are yet to cross paths with Mr Ward, or have read about his annual Christmas present drive in The Beast over the years but done nothing about it, this is your chance to get involved.

After losing his son Johnno in August 2008 to a long battle with childhood liver disease, Mr Ward decided to channel his heartache into something good. In an effort to draw a positive out of his first Christmas without his son, he collected presents for the sick children in Sydney’s hospitals. And thus began a beautiful tradition.

After collecting 160 presents in the first year, the annual event has grown from strength to strength and has received great support from the local community, including a few familiar faces. Over the years, local celebs like Bondi Vet’s Dr Chris Brown, rugby league legend Laurie Daley and a number of the Bondi Rescue crew (to name but a few) have chipped in to bring the annual giveaway up to over 1,000 presents last year.

“I’ve been doing this event for 10 years now and we have delivered over 8,000 presents to sick children,” Mr Ward told The Beast.

“When we deliver the presents, everyone is so appreciative and the nurses at Westmead always tell me how proud Johnno would be. That means everything to me.”

Johnno’s legacy doesn’t stop there. The annual Christmas Presents for Sick Kids is on again this year on Sunday, December 16 at the Coogee Bay Hotel. And it’s not just about buying a present and leaving it with the crew (although you can if you want to) – this is an event for the whole family.

Taking place in the Coogee Bay Hotel Seaview Room between 1.30pm and 4pm, you can wrap your present and help others to wrap theirs too. There will be a free sausage sizzle, face painting and all the necessary wrapping equipment required to make each present truly special. It’s a great event
for the whole community and a fantastic opportunity to take the kids along and show them the true meaning of Christmas.

All the presents will be delivered the next day to the Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick and the Westmead Children’s Hospital.

If you want to get involved but don’t have time to stick around on the day, you can leave your unwrapped gift (or gifts) with the crew or you can wrap it yourself beforehand and drop it off – just make sure you label it with the appropriate age group and gender on a small sticker.

If you can spare the time, head on down, get involved and enjoy the festive atmosphere. After all, Christmas isn’t just about stuffing your face with prawns, pavlova, ham and Chrissy pud (hopefully not at the same time); it’s about coming together as a community and helping those in need. That might sound like the corny voice-over at the end of a cheesy, straight-to-DVD American holiday movie, but you’d be surprised what a huge difference a small act of kindness can make.

So if you can spare a few dollars and a bit of time to help make a sick child’s Christmas a little bit brighter this year, head on down to the Coogee Bay Hotel with your pressies on Sunday, December 16. We’ll see you there!