29 May 2024

KidsWish in Shellharbour set to step into Illawarra’s north with $92,000 boost from The Great Illawarra Walk

| Kellie O'Brien
Start the conversation
group of people with a big cheque

Handing over the cheque are (from left): The Great Illawarra Walk committee member Emilie Wells, KidsWish stakeholder engagement and fundraising manager Emily Wright, Illawarra Security Guards owner Ray McCrimmon, The Great Illawarra Walk committee member Chris Lovatt with daughter Lottie and fellow member Katie Hayes. Photo: Paul Suttor.

KidsWish in Shellharbour is looking to expand its programs into northern Illawarra locations to impact more families after a $92,050 donation from The Great Illawarra Walk.

It was the first year The Great Illawarra Walk had chosen KidsWish as a recipient of its fundraising, which has participants walk from Shellharbour to Austinmer each March.

KidsWish stakeholder engagement and fundraising manager Emily Wright said the organisation provided free programs and events for kids living with a disability or illness.

Emily said the kids often found mainstream programs and sporting clubs didn’t cater to their needs, so KidsWish activities offered a social outlet and after-school care option that suited all levels and abilities.

“This money will allow us to not only continue to deliver the programs we run out of KidsWish House in Flinders, but it’s allowed us to look at expanding our programs into a northern Illawarra location,” she said.

“Without this additional funding, we wouldn’t be able to look at doing that.

“With limited funding for children to attend group programs, these free programs help to bridge the gap and provide a safe and supportive environment for children to develop their social, emotional and physical skills, whilst providing positive engagement opportunities within their community.”

Emily said KidsWish was now working on finding appropriate northern locations to further cater to the high demand for sports, dance and music programs and avoid the challenge of families in the northern suburbs having to travel.

READ ALSO ‘Never say never’: former Mr Squiggle presenter reckons kids’ TV is set for a puppet renaissance

She said many of the families who benefited from the services were also part of this year’s The Great Illawarra Walk.

“This was the first year KidsWish was the beneficiary and we really wanted to make the event inclusive for all the families we support, but to do the whole 40-kilometre walk was probably not achievable for a lot of families,” she said.

“So we introduced the KidsWish Blue Mile, which stretched along the Wollongong harbour and then finished at Stuart Park with a big family fun fair.

“It was just a good way to include everyone.”

The Great Illawarra Walk committee member Chris Lovatt said having the KidsWish Blue Mile entrants as part of the more than 500 registrants who pounded the pavements this year had added to the overall event.

“It really added to the walk and was a nice reminder of why you’re doing it and who you’re doing it for,” Chris said.

“It’s thanks to KidsWish we were able to get them involved with the walk.

“With The Great Illawarra Walk, our two main things are kids and the Illawarra and KidsWish fits that well.

“We love what they do with the programs they run and the impact they have on local children and their families as well.”

READ ALSO Illawarra Academy of Sport fosters champions on and off the field as it looks towards Brisbane 2032

He said they had now committed to support KidsWish again next year.

Fellow committee member Emilie Wells said being an Illawarra charity, it was important all funds raised were donated in full to the charity being supported.

Emilie said any costs associated with running the event were covered by the major sponsor, which this year was Illawarra Security Guards.

“KidsWish have been fantastic this year because they brought a lot of the businesses who have supported them in the past on board, and those businesses paid for the privilege to look after and be at water stations,” she said.

She said they were appreciative that for 17 years the Illawarra community had come out and supported the event, having raised more than $1.2 million for Illawarra children during that time.

This year, KidsWish launched Accessing Illawarra, which involves small-scale free events and experiences for things families sometimes find difficult to access, such as Flip Out and Hangdog. It’s aimed at allowing kids to access the community in a safe and supportive way.

Larger-scale events are held at the Early Start Discovery Space, Science Space and cinemas.

Registration is already open for the 2025 The Great Illawarra Walk on 8 March.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Illawarra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Illawarra stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.