NEXT month, Maffra’s Read family will hold a 12 hour treadmill marathon, to raise money for a cause special to their hearts.
Tanya and Kevin Read have three children, two of them born with disabilities.
The Read’s youngest daughter Olivia is a happy, 10-year-old girl, who enjoys going to school every day, jumping on her trampoline, exploring and playing outside in the sandpit.
What Olivia loves most is playing in her very own, personal swimming pool — spending hours just splashing and blowing bubbles.
Olivia has development delay and epilepsy, requiring brain surgery in 2015, and needing frequent reviews with Melbourne-based neurologists and cardiologists.
During pre-surgery tests, the specialists discovered an abnormality with her heart, Wolff Parkinson White Syndrome, meaning Olivia suffers from a rapid pounding heartbeat, dizziness and light-headedness.
Olivia is non-verbal, and her family have learnt through her facial expressions, body language and gestures, whether she’s hungry, tired, enjoying what she is doing or wants to go outside to play.
Olivia stays at the Very Special Kids hospice in Melbourne several times a year, when her parents become overwhelmed or need to spend time with their eldest daughter, and participates in the school holiday program which involves special guests, music, art and craft.
“Very Special Kids is an amazing organisation and the support that they have provided to us has made a huge difference to our family and we are extremely grateful,” Tanya said.
“Each time we go in for hospice, Olivia is all smiles and heads straight to the multi-sensory room — the enjoyment and expressions on her face are a pleasure to watch.
“The staff both in the hospice and also the organisation give their time to actually engage with Olivia, and watching the interaction is priceless.
“Although Olivia does not give much back to people and this can be a challenge for communication and socialising, the staff have a way to get through to her, put her at ease, relax and be happy to interact with them.”
The VSK hospice is the only facility of its kind in Victoria, offering families access to planned and emergency respite care, as well as end-of-life care for children in peaceful surroundings.
Every year, VSK help more than 900 families who have a child with a life-threatening condition, with ongoing support from diagnosis to recovery or bereavement.
It costs more than $7 million each year to operate VSK, and they rely substantially on fundraising support to provide their services free-of-charge to families.
The hospice’s annual 24 hour treadmill challenge, held on the VSK lawns, attracts more than 1000 participants, and raised $822,668 in 2017.
Tanya said plenty of locals asked to join her in last year’s challenge, but as she was invited to the Icon Group’s team as a corporate guest, had to turn people away.
This year, there’s a place for everyone, as the Reads host their own local ‘Making a Splash for Liv’ marathon at Everyday Elite gym, 192 Johnson St, Maffra, on Sunday, May 6.
Held from 8am until 8pm, people can select what time they’d like to run or walk, and buy a half an hour treadmill slot for $30, with all money going directly to VSK.
Having known the Reads for quite some time and possessing a keen community focus, gym owner Jacob Weatherley put two-and-two together and stuck up his hand to help out.
“The stuff that they do with Olivia is just incredible, so I'll definitely help out however I can,” he said.
“Maffra is such a tight knit community, so it’s important to always get behind people when they need a hand.”
With three of the gym’s treadmills in operation, Tanya hopes to better her own fundraising effort from last year — $3000.
There will be a special prize for the person who raises the most money, for those who achieve sponsorship from family and friends.
Because of Olivia’s affinity with water, the day is water-themed, and costumes are welcome.
There will be a sausage sizzle, raffles and a coffee van onsite on the day.
Registration opens on April 16, via volunteersignup.org or the ‘Making a Splash for Liv’ Facebook page.