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Thirteen Years of Presents for Sick Kids

By Nicola Smith on November 30, 2020 in News

You bloody legends! Photo: Barbie Queue

The team behind the Forever Johnno fundraiser will be holding their annual Christmas Presents for Sick Kids event at the Coogee Bay Hotel on December 13.
Christmas Presents for Sick Kids, organised by Coogee local Mal Ward, has now been running for thirteen years.
As with many things in 2020, there was some doubt over whether the drive would be possible with COVID-19, but Mr Ward said he was encouraged to run it because sick kids had a harder year than most.
“I asked a nurse at the hospital whether they’d still want to do it with the pandemic, and she said, ‘There’s still going to be Christmas, still going to be sick kids.’ It makes me even more determined, to tell you the truth,” Mr Ward said.
Mr Ward told The Beast that part of the success of the drive is the connection to the local community.
“I think people like it because they know how it works, they see me collecting it, and then they see me delivering [the gifts] to the hospital, and they know it’s really going to kids in the hospital,” he explained.
Mr Ward is also the organiser of the Forever Johnno fundraiser that ran this year in September in honour of his late son, John Anders Ward.
Mr Ward hoped to raise $21,000 in the year that would’ve been Johnno’s 21st birthday. Despite all the restrictions, the campaign received over $31,000 in donations.
“It was great to see there were people we know who were suffering under COVID who have donated; sometimes people who have the least are the ones who give the most, it’s amazing,” Mr Ward said.
Community spirit is also growing the present drive, with local organisation Santa by the Surf coming on board to collect presents for a second year.
Sophie Matson, the coordinator of Santa by the Surf, which runs Santa events for kids at local surf clubs, said that the collection of gifts for sick kids was now an important part of her event.
“Families were so generous, and seeing children give presents to Santa for the sick children was so heart-warming. The best bit was dropping them off at the event last year and seeing so many people come together for this charity and the huge amount of generosity within the community,” Ms Matson told The Beast.
Santa by the Surf will run at North Bondi and Bronte surf clubs this year.
Over its thirteen year history, the Christmas Presents for Sick Kids campaign has grown into something that not only provides every child in the Westmead and Sydney Children’s Hospital with Christmas gifts, but also supports their parents and siblings at a very difficult time. It’s also a great event for the countless Eastern Suburbs families who come along on the day to donate or wrap gifts.
“As time goes on and you reflect more, I think to myself, ‘What if I’d done nothing and said, well my son’s died, and that’s it?’ When you think about how many people know his story now and how many lives have been made better through his legacy, it makes me proud,” Mr Ward said.
You can join in the fun on December 13 at Coogee Bay Hotel’s Sea View room from 1pm or drop a gift off at a Santa by the Surf event.