An early Christmas for Sydney’s Brainwave families

Santa and his army of elves came early to Brainwave families this Christmas when over 140 children diagnosed with a neurological condition and their families from all over New South Wales, descended on Sydney’s iconic Luna Park last Saturday.  The 285 guests enjoyed a great day out complete with gifts from Santa, creative balloon artists, amazing face painters and Silly Sally who mingled with the crowd.  They jived to the sounds of the Dixie band, enjoyed carnival rides, marvelled at a giant and beautiful butterfly on stilts, feasted on a gourmet buffet lunch in a balloon laden marquee overlooking Sydney Harbour, all topped off with a gigantic chocolate birthday cake to celebrate Brainwave’s 20th anniversary – courtesy of Brainwave Australia and their generous sponsors: Macquarie and the Sisters of Charity.

Staff from Ferrero Australia generously volunteered their time, meeting families, helping Santa with presents and bringing delight to children by distributing copious quantities of chocolate throughout the day. Brainwave Chairman David Blackley says the event is powered by enthusiastic corporate and community volunteers, adding, “Our volunteers show Brainwave families amazing support by helping us run days like this.  This year is not just a Christmas celebration; we are celebrating our 20th anniversary as well!”

Amongst the families enjoying the festivities was six-year-old Elanora Heights resident Oliver Scheel, his mum Ingrid and dad Michael. Oliver was born ten weeks premature and on day two of his life, it was discovered that he had suffered a stroke in utero.  At this time, Oliver was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and vision impairment however, the extent of his diagnosis was still unknown and only time would tell.

Ollie’s first surgery took place when he was just over six weeks old; daunting brain surgery for the shunting of his hydrocephalus, more commonly known as ‘water on the brain’. Years of consultation with specialists, ongoing physiotherapy, occupational and vison therapy ensued.  Ollie was finally diagnosed with spastic cerebral palsy with bilateral involvement that affects his right side as well as moderate optic nerve atrophy.  Ollie is legally blind and also suffers from epilepsy.

Taking his first steps prior to his third birthday, Ollie hasn’t slowed down since; he is a happy, confident and social boy and is the apple of his family’s eyes.  Sister Jess (25) and his brother Matt (23), love spending time with their little brother and are especially proud of his membership of the South Curl Curl SLSC.  His additional needs nippers group is a source of great activity, fun and a sense of achievement for them all.

Starting mainstream kindergarten this year has been a major milestone for Ollie and one he has embraced with his signature enthusiasm and gusto.  In the face of extreme adversity, Ollie has shown extraordinary qualities of character that make his family incredibly proud.  Brainwave has provided Ollie and his family great support and they are regular attendees at Brainwave sponsored activity camps and family days, leaving their routines at home to enjoy time out with other families who face challenge and adversity – just like them.

Brainwave is Australia’s only charity focussed on reducing the impact of paediatric neurological conditions on children and their families by offering practical assistance and emotional support to help improve their quality of life.  It was started 20 years ago by Josephine Nicholls following her son Nic’s diagnosis, surgery and treatment for a brain tumour.  Head to www.brainwave.org.au to learn more about the important support work that Brainwave does.

Child psychologist Sandy Rea says days out like the Brainwave Christmas Party provide tangible psychological benefits to children affected by disability and long term illness. “Many of these children endure physical difficulties, ongoing pain and time spent away from school or friends on a daily basis, which can leave them feeling very isolated,” she said.

Oliver’s mum, Ingrid Scheel said, “We had such a wonderful time and to our surprise and delight, Ollie was very keen to go on as many rides as he could.  It was great to catch up with some of the families we met more recently at camp and of course, your lovely volunteers!”

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