SS&A Walla Family Donation Supporting Children with Cancer on the border Community Support

SS&A Albury and Walla family Danny and Caroline Phegan have joined forces

To fund a new $330,000 project to support families of children with cancer on the Border.

(Story by Jodie O’Sullivan of The Border Mail. Story featured in The Border Mail 23rd September 2022) 

The Albury Wodonga Regional Cancer Centre Trust Fund will announce this morning that a Paediatric Cancer Care Co-ordinator will be created at the cancer centre thanks to a three-year funding pledge from the donors.
SS&A have committed to providing $60,000 a year while the Phegans have promised $50,000 a year
The new role will provide support for paediatric cancer patients and help families co-ordinate care, such as maintenance chemotherapy and symptom management closer to home if safe to do so. Trust Fund board member David Baker said the role was a first for the region and the co-ordinator would work closely with the Royal Children’s Hospital and Monash Health to provide shared care locally.” Paediatric cancer is rare with initial workup and treatment typically provided in Melbourne,” he said” To have someone here locally that can answer questions or concerns will make a huge difference for families going through incredibly tough times.”
Long-time cancer campaigner and well-known Border musician Danny Phegan said he’d lost many “best friends and best family” to cancer, including his beloved grandfather Herb Freyer. He admitted he and Caroline had a “soft spot” for supporting this new role given they have six children. “We think the regional cancer centre is vital because it helps to keep families together,” he said. For Albury Wodonga Regional Cancer Centre Trust Fund chairperson Michelle Hensel, this new role is particularly poignant.
Ms Hensel’s son Braedon lost his battle with the rare Ewings Sarcoma at just 22 years of age.
Braedon fought cancer for more than three years and Ms Hensel moved to Melbourne for one year – away from their family – while he was undergoing treatment.
She said it would have made the world of difference to have a go-to person locally to provide support “and help get your head around” the issues.
“Cancer affects the whole family and it’s just vitally important that there are opportunities for the family unit to stay intact,” she said.
“I can’t begin to tell you what it was like to move to Melbourne for 12 months away from our family …
“The creation of this role is another important piece of the jigsaw puzzle for the cancer centre trust fund.”
SS&A Club chief executive Gerard Darmody said the organisation had a clear commitment to supporting local causes.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to have supported the children’s ward over a number of years and we are privileged to support the cancer centre trust fund because we know it 100 per cent stays local,” he said.
“The regional cancer centre is the best thing to happen to Albury-Wodonga and we won’t walk away from supporting it.”
The new position is expected to be advertised in the coming weeks.

Albury Wodonga Health’s Mental Health Service is ecstatic after purchasing vouchers and equipment to help support the community.

The service believes a $50,000 donation per annum over three years from the SS&A will be invaluable in challenging times. Operational director Dr Leah Wiseman said the vouchers would be hugely beneficial.
“We have purchased taxi vouchers as a lot of people can’t get home from our ED or inpatient units,” Dr Wiseman said. “There are also supermarket vouchers as people often go home to an empty fridge.
“We have also purchased clothing vouchers to make sure people have a new set of clean clothes as well as toiletry vouchers. “Vouchers are a huge use of the funds and they will be for the next three years. “It’s fantastic this money has enabled us to do this.” The service has also purchased a coffee machine to help form a catch-up group.

Occupational therapist Jason Hanson said enjoying a simple coffee together had many positive spin-offs. “It brings people together and I think it stops a massive power imbalance,” Mr Hanson said. “Just being able to decrease some of this power imbalance and chat over a coffee is one of the most magical things. “If someone is angry or upset, instead of using medication let’s grab a cup of coffee or tea and take away the clinical aspect of it by just having a chat.” Sensory modulation equipment such as iPADS, headphones and weighted blankets have also been purchased for Nolan House and Kerford Unit. Music is often used for calmness as a way of avoiding medication. MHS has also spent money on a child youth team single session therapy clinic and metabolic screening equipment. “SS&A has been very bashful but we are incredibly grateful,” Dr Wiseman said. “Our needs keep changing depending on what’s going on in community at the time and this money certainly helps us do that.”

Albury Wodonga Health has 10 specialty community-based mental health services, plus three acute care services and three recovery and rehabilitation facilities as well as a service specialising in supporting families, where a parent has a mental illness and connecting people to carer consultants. A wide geographical area is covered, with services provided as far away as Holbrook, Bright, Benalla, Wangaratta and Yarrawonga.