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AT 12 months of age, Ruby Kerin’s heart went into failure and her family spent years going between Sydney and their home in Giralang due to the ACT’s lack of a paediatric cardiologist.
Nardia and Paul Kerin spent much of Ruby’s early years trying to keep her and her big brother Bailey amused in “sterile” waiting rooms in Sydney.
Around the age of 4, Ruby’s paediatric cardiologist began seeing patients in Canberra through the Paediatrics at the Centenary Hospital (PatCH) outpatients’ program.
When visiting PatCH, the family became familiar with the home-like items that had been donated by Sweet ChariTea, an annual fundraiser where all profits go to PatCH.
Sweet ChariTea was created after local mum Kartika Medcraft and her friends in business decided to find a way to give back to the community following Kartika’s son’s ongoing health crisis.
Sweet ChariTea event partner Belle Hogg, of Belle Photography, says the items sponsored by Sweet ChariTea, while not providing a cure or research, are there to make a miserable time a little more bearable.
“Having comforting things around helps Ruby feel happy when she has to attend her appointments, rather than fearing them,” she says.
Inspired by the work of Sweet ChariTea, Nardia and Paul now sponsor a table at its annual high-tea fundraisers, including the upcoming one with its theme: “When you wish upon a star”.
“We also want to lend a hand to other families who are going through such a difficult time,” Nardia says.
For the Kerin family, Ruby’s illness is raw and real and ongoing. Ruby is now 6.
“It is something that she will need to live with for the rest of her life. And how that pans out is a waiting game,” Nardia says.
“The fact that her ongoing health is unknown and further surgery is likely, it becomes a big burden to carry around.
“It makes you appreciate just what you have and having a sick child puts a lot of emotional pressure on a family.
“The caring nature in which Sweet ChariTea has dealt with not only Ruby but the rest of our family all along this journey has been heartfelt and compassionate and something that we could never repay.
“Through our support of Sweet ChariTea and our sponsorship of the hospital table we want to recognise and show our appreciation, and give back, even just a little, to those wonderful people who provide that support to families on a daily basis.”
Over the past four years Sweet ChariTea has raised about $74,000, which has gone to things such as play therapy equipment, a tympanometer for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), breastfeeding chairs, access to the Delta Therapy Dogs program for two years and multiple armchair sofa beds for parents in the NICU/PaTCH unit.
Belle says these items provide a sense of calm and safety to children in the various areas of the hospital.
“[This year] funds will go towards a brand new sensory garden for the Child at Risk Health Unit,” Belle says.
“Sensory therapeutic gardens and multi-sensory experiences help children open up, engage their minds and bodies in the moment, and enable the CARHU therapists to provide intensive play-based, child-focused therapy to neglected or abused children.
“A therapeutic sensory garden will help us to establish a safe environment to allow the children and young people to build a therapeutic alliance, to heal and grow from their experiences.”
Sweet ChariTea’s “When You Wish Upon a Star” high tea, The Abbey Function Centre, Federation Square, O’Hanlon Place, Nicholls, from 12.45pm-6pm, September 17. Bookings via facebook.com/sweetcharitea/