Coles shared some extra Christmas cheer this year with the delivery of $100 gift cards to nearly 2000 families supported by Redkite. The generous act was in response to Redkite’s research into the impact of COVID-19 on families who have a child with cancer.
The research findings showed that nearly a quarter of families feared they could not afford the basics like food and nearly a third of respondents also said they didn’t think they could continue to provide for their families.
Redkite ambassador Antonia Kidman said the pandemic had been particularly hard and stressful for families who have children with cancer.
“Even though restrictions have eased across Australia, the threat of catching COVID-19 is always very real for families who have an immunocompromised child.
“Redkite works on the front line of childhood cancer support, helping with life’s basics and making sure families can stay fed and manage the double stress of COVID and childhood cancer,” she said.
The gift card donations from Coles came as Redkite encouraged communities to purchase a $2 donation card at a Coles supermarket checkout between now and Christmas Eve. All proceeds from the national Christmas appeal at Coles, will be evenly distributed between Redkite and national food relief charity SecondBite.
Coles CEO Steven Cain said Coles was pleased to help Redkite through the donation of gift cards to families affected by cancer as well as national fundraising at more than 800 Coles supermarkets this Christmas.
“In addition to our national fundraising campaign, Coles is pleased to donate a $100 Coles gift card to nearly 2000 Redkite families to spend however they want – be it pantry staples or treats for the Christmas table. It’s just one way we’re helping families to have a healthier, happier Christmas,” he said.
As part of the campaign, five families across the country shared what their year has been like.
The Kidd family from Sydney
Belinda and Craig’s four year old son Harrison was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia in 2018. Not only did the COVID-19 pandemic force Belinda and Craig onto reduced wages, but both gave up work to look after their children after their third son, Clarke, was born in July.
“He was just months away from finishing treatment. No-one expected it, not even his oncology team,” Belinda said after Harrison’s cancer returned in early September.
“Since his treatment began again, we haven’t been at home much. And when we are home, we’re wondering, ‘When are we going back to hospital?’”
The MacKenzie family from Melbourne
Leanne and Tyler’s eight-year-old son, Lincoln, was diagnosed with bone cancer in May 2019. In June of this year, the family discovered Lincoln’s cancer returned and moved to his lungs.
“It was in March, when Lincoln had a fracture of his hip, and had to have surgery, and that was when lockdown started. COVID-19 restrictions meant that we were limited to only one parent with him at a time. For four weeks straight, Tyler and I would literally see each other in the carpark as we swapped notes and gave each other a quick hi and bye kiss.”
Tyler said that the cost of cancer all adds up at the end of the day.
“Dropping to one wage, the cost of hospital carparking, it’s a big chunk taken out of our weekly household income. Redkite’s financial assistance and the Coles gift cards have allowed us to pay our car registration that allows us to go to hospital. They have helped keep our fridge full. It’s one more thing we don’t have to worry about,” he said.
The Smith family from Brisbane
Sherrie’s 15 year old daughter Emily was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in November 2019. After being declared cancer-free in March, Sherrie found out that not only had Emily’s Hodgkin’s Lymphoma returned, but she was also diagnosed with Leukaemia.
As a single mother, Sherrie said she struggled financially, especially with purchasing enough food for her five children, as she had to stop working to care for Emily. COVID-19 has also caused the delay of Emily’s bone marrow transplant from a non-related donor from the United States, which is due to take place in January 2021.
“Redkite’s support has been huge for us. Every time I’m at the supermarket, I’m also just so grateful for those Coles gift cards. I always think to myself: ‘Thank you, Redkite. Thank you, Coles. We eat this week’,” Sherrie said.
In March 2021, we were saddened to hear that Emily had passed away. Her family have kindly let us continue to share her story here, as they believe it’s what Emily would have wanted.
The McIlroy family from Perth
Brooke McIlroy’s three-year-old daughter, Luca, was diagnosed with a brain tumour in May.
Within hours of the diagnosis, Luca was admitted to the Perth Children’s Hospital to have the tumour removed. She has since finished five rounds of chemotherapy.
“As a single mother, I had to give up my career to look after Luca and my other daughter Emerson. I won’t be able to go back to work part-time next year as we don’t know how Luca’s treatment will go,” Brooke said.
She said it was heart-breaking that because of the hospital’s safety measures during the pandemic, the sisters couldn’t see each.
“It’s been very hard on them both. They’re so close and with COVID-19, Emmy couldn’t see Luca for well over two months. Some people don’t understand just how hard it is, and what you have to give up, so having any support is really welcomed.”
Vinny Falcione, Sally Neidorfer and Michael Falcione from South Australia
Vinny Falcione was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in February when he was just two months old. His mother, Sally Niedorfer, and his father Michael Falcione, had to relocate from their home in Port Augusta to Adelaide for Vinny’s treatment just before COVID-19 started.
“Vinny’s treatment began right as COVID -19 started to hit in Australia, which meant for us that not only were we separated from our family at home, but also each other, with only one of us only being able to take Vinny to the hospital each day,” Sally said.
“That was really difficult for us. Michael couldn’t be there in the hospital with Vinny for a lot of the time. It had to be me by myself during the long days whilst Vinny was in there. COVID-19 also meant that our family couldn’t come and visit us whilst we were in Adelaide, and whilst we were isolated, which made it very difficult.
“The hardest moments were being alone in the hospital by myself with Vinny. It was just exhausting not being able to have Michael there to be able to help.
“Michael just started up a new business and because of Vinny’s cancer and COVID-19 he was only able to do enough work to keep the business alive whilst we were in Adelaide, but our whole lives were put on pause,” Sally said.
You can help support families facing childhood cancer this Christmas by purchasing a $2 donation card at a Coles supermarket checkout between now and Christmas Eve.