It is hard for any parent to imagine their child suffering. Whatever it might be, from the tiniest boo-boo to a broken limb or life-threatening illness, it is every mother and father’s worst nightmare.
But for some, it has become their reality, a reality they are forced to accept, through hardships and sorrow, at their own expense. When your child has leukemia, autism or cystic fibrosis, not to mention the myriad other horrific ailments that threaten us daily, your entire life has to change.
The Starlight Foundation was established 26 years ago to help ease the burden of sick children and their families. Offering palliative care, transportation, support and so much more, the Starlight Foundation provide what these admirable individuals so rightly deserve.
Supporters of the Starlight Foundation – both physically and financially – Brett and Debbie Fowler have given far more than the average Australian to this more than worthy cause. Last weekend, the first weekend of August, hosted the pair’s annual donation of their property, the Byron Luxury Beach Houses on Shirley Street, to four families incredibly deserving and sorely in need of a holiday. But more than just free accommodation, Debbie connects with the local community to facilitate a weekend of fun, freedom, laughter and pampering.
This year, four families received treats from the Byron Bay Cookie Company, a beautiful breakfast at the Beach Café, exploring the bay with Go Sea Kayaking, pampering at the Nail Bar Cafe, a lovely evening of socialising and hosted by Debbie and Brett and a trip up to the lighthouse with Byron’s own bringer of happiness and laughter, ‘Dancing’ Tommy Franklin were just a few of the wonderful treats in store for the families.
“I haven’t had a holiday in seven years,” said Cameron Hutton, father of one of the weekend’s four guests of honour. His daughter, Georgia, has been battling leukemia for the last two years and this has, understandably, made the entire family’s needs come second, or not at all. The generous gift has been a dream come true for both Cameron and his family: “I work seven days a week and the kids have missed out on two years of everything. It has been the nicest single day in at least three years.”
This feeling was shared by every parent and child present. Although Tim Jarrett and his family only came from Ballina, to have every need attended to, entertainment for parents and kids and the chance to stay for free in such luxurious surroundings was no less appreciated. “Debbie and Brett have done such a good job – it’s been a real treat for us. We don’t go away on holidays very often, but when we do, it’s massive to organise for it. So to have someone organise the food, the accommodation, the activities – everything – it’s hard to put into words how wonderful that is.”
Little Charlie Parkin was one of the youngest of the weekend’s guests. At just five years old, she has had to undergo the painful and exhausting treatment of bone marrow transplant. “We’ve been so lucky to have Starlight [the Starlight Foundation],” says mum, Gabi. “It feels like a weekend of what ‘normal’ should feel like. We’ve been looking forward to this for months. It’s the first time [husband] Daniel and I have had time together for so long. And for Charlie, the activities have been wonderful. I don’t think I’ve seen her laugh this much in months and months.”
With the superb support of the Starlight Foundation, Brett and Debbie Fowler offered four more-than-deserving families the chance to relax, to forget the daily heartache and hard work, to have a few days of what so many of us take for granted – a normal life.