Maddie (Donaghy) Francis
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  • Writer's pictureMaddie

From so sad to so glad!

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

To say I have put everything into NICU Cheer is a huge understatement - it's a colossal task organising all of the donations, coordinating over 500 volunteers, getting everything here on time, packed into the bags, boxed up in the right numbers and then safely distributed to the hospitals. I do it all in my spare time, which being a fulltime working mother of two including a special needs/medically complex little one, I don't have very much of, but I do it readily and 99.99% of the time it makes me so happy. I have given my blood, sweat, tears and even two broken ribs this year to NICU Cheer (unknowingly, packing 500 bags for Easter and Mother’s Day) so what is merely a business decision for one organisation can be a devastating blow for myself and our wider NICU Cheer family and that’s what happened a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, the blow was that the Royal Children's Hospital (RCH), where our daughter sees the orthopaedics team to stay on top of her bone growth issues and where our son has been seen by some nineteen departments, some of them very regularly, have had a change in how/what they accept from other organisations.  Despite doing all the right things a few years ago and receiving Foundation approval at that time NICU Cheer are now not able to donate our gift-bags to their NICU families for Christmas Day 2023. We are in contact with the foundation staff who are reassessing everything for us, but for now we will be donating Snuggle Hearts only this Christmas day. We remain hopeful that we can find a way to donate full bags again from 2024 as although they are the smallest tertiary level NICU in Melbourne, the RCH families really matter to us at NICU Cheer and we adore their amazing Butterfly Ward staff, so it is heartbreaking knowing the RCH will be the only one to not receive bags from us this Christmas Day.  The RCH of course will give their own gifts to families, but our bags will not be amongst them for the first time since our first donation there.

We already had the items for the 35 bags RCH bags donated and ready to go, so I am so pleased to say that on the same day this all happened the Monash Children's Hospital, which has Melbourne's biggest tertiary level NICU, reached out for more bags. They did this as they are now also overseeing a number of smaller neonatal units in three other hospitals and wanted to extend the love and support to those hospital's families too. The total they needed was 34 bags and I now had 35 essentially spare, so it was such phenomenal timing to get that request right then. Like it was ‘meant to be’ if I wanted to get all cheesy about it.

We are so proud to further our beautiful partnership with Monash Foundation who have always supported NICU Cheer and everything we strive to achieve and cannot wait to support their three other locations from this Christmas Day onwards. See picture gallery above of just a few of the past Monash NICU families receiving a bag from NICU Cheer. In other great news I also met with executives at the Northern Health Foundation two weeks ago and I am so proud to say that patients in their neonatal unit will get little mini-gifts from us this Christmas Day and then they will receive our full bags on all 4 days from Easter 2024. We are really excited to do this for Northern and look forward to cheering up their beautiful families too. Exciting times ahead for NICU Cheer and we want to extend a warm welcome to our four new hospitals, we are honoured to be able to help your beautiful little patients and their families.

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Bree Gauci
Bree Gauci
28 nov 2023

So sad for the families in Butterfly Ward at RCH who are the ones missing out on the gorgeous bags you provide, and I really hope the RCH Foundation can remember their real purpose, to support families and not to gate-keep. One of our NICU bubs spent a bit of time at Butterfly Ward one Easter, and I would have loved to receive a NICU cheer bag ....I didn't expect gifts at all, and I was surprised to get a chocolate bunny left in our NICU room presumably from the RCH Foundation.....thinking back, the information, snuggle hearts, books, and other self-care items you provide would have been greatly appreciated. However, I'm THRILLED that the Monash Children's is expanding its services…

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