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By Madeleine Gray on February 3, 2017 in News

Photo:  Charlie Ward

Photo: Charlie Ward

Having a kid sick in hospital is probably the hardest thing a parent can go through. It’s even harder when that time in hospital coincides with the holiday period – what kid wants to spend Christmas day in a hospital gown instead of their swimmers?

Local hero (and previous Beast cover star) Mal ‘Wardy’ Ward knows this only too well, as his son Johnno spent much of his life in the liver transplant unit at Westmead Children’s Hospital.

Wardy started his charity, Forever Johnno, to raise money to help these sick kids, and in December 2008 – the Christmas after Johnno passed away – he launched Forever Johnno’s Christmas Presents for Sick Kids present drive. Nine years in, and we’re pleased to announce that 2016’s present drive was again a huge success.

“Over 1,100 presents were donated and delivered to the children’s hospitals at Randwick and Westmead,” Wardy reported.

The drop-off day in late December at the Coogee Bay Hotel was a rousing celebration of what can be achieved when we work together to help out those who are going through a tough time in our community.

“Chris Cheung, owner of the Coogee Bay Hotel, donated the venue and the services of the CBH staff for the event, and even popped in himself with some presents for the kids,” Wardy said.

“Katie and Georgie manned the barbecue to feed everyone, and Ashley Hayes, the events manager from Sydney Aquarium, also donated over 250 presents from the Merlin (owner’s of the aquarium) team. Ashley’s husband, Lucas, also shot an amazing short video of the day, which can be viewed on the Forever Johnno Facebook page.”

Many other locals gave their time to help out, with Kirsty Essen donating her prodigious face painting abilities to the cause.

This Christmas, Forever Johnno joined forces with Dave Martin from Courtyard Café in collecting presents.

“Dave was fantastic,” Wardy said. “His drive added nearly 100 presents; he’s a good rooster.”

The delivery of the presents to the children’s hospitals is still an emotional experience for Wardy, but it’s a true reminder of the Christmas spirit and tremendous way to celebrate the memory of his son.

“There are many mixed emotions when visiting the Clancy Ward at Westmead to deliver the presents, seeing a lot of familiar faces from the days when John was in there,” Wardy said.

“They are very appreciative and all comment of how proud Johnno would be. That makes me very proud.”

Forever Johnno will be hosting its next fundraiser on Friday, May 19 at the CBH sports bar. We highly recommend popping in, having a beer, buying a few raffle tickets, and making yourself part of what is truly a wonderful group of people.