Very Special Kids show Excellence in Volunteering
2017 State Awards – Excellence Award recipient Very Special Kids. Photo Credit: Frank Amato

Malvern-based not for profit Very Special Kids (VSK) had the honour of receiving the Volunteering Victoria State Award for Excellence in November last year.

Established in 1985, the organisation cares for children with life-threatening conditions by providing Victoria’s only children’s hospice and professional support services to families.

The organisation is currently supported by over 1,000 volunteers, who are divided into two streams:

  • Family Services Volunteers assist families in the family home, when the child is admitted to hospital, when the child is at Very Special Kids Hospice and by participating in program activities.
  • Friends Volunteers provide practical fundraising support with the events team. Friends Volunteers assist with administration, gardening, maintenance, community events, public relations and a ‘thank you call program’.

Volunteer Coordinators Nathan Brown and Lou Cooney manage a wide variety of volunteers of all age groups and backgrounds, united in their passion for supporting children and their families during the most difficult time of their lives.

CEO Michael Wasley said the Family Service Volunteers support families with the practical and emotional demands of caring for their child.  This can take place in the family home, at hospital or when the child is at Very Special Kids Hospice.

One such volunteer is Jess. Jess is a 22-year-old university student and despite a busy schedule of studying and working part time in hospitality, she spends every Thursday afternoon at the Very Special Kids Hospice.

Jess has a special connection with the child she visits, who has a condition with no cure, and offers much needed respite to the child’s parents who can feel safe knowing that Jess will give their child her undivided attention.

Volunteers like Jess make a huge difference to the lives of families. One parent says:

“Very Special Kids is the best source of support by far we have received ever in our journey with Abby. The hospice provides an incredible and caring environment for much needed sleep and we think the support and time from Mary Connell our volunteer is unmatched- she is wonderful and the children love her.”

CEO Michael Wasley says that a dedication to excellence in volunteering by the entire organisation has been vital to the program’s success.

“Very Special Kids goes above and beyond to create the best volunteer experience possible for the 1,000 plus volunteers which, while the volunteer program is well staffed, it is the responsibility of all people in the organisation at every level.”

“We strive to constantly model The National Standards for Involving Volunteers in Not for profit Organisations to ensure each and every one of our volunteer’s rights are protected, that their role is clear and that they work in a safe and healthy environment.”

And it’s paying off. A recent volunteer satisfaction survey found that 100% of volunteers surveyed would recommend Very Special Kids to a friend, with 95% of volunteers rating their volunteer experience as excellent (5% as good).

Congratulations to Very Special Kids on their well-deserved Excellence Award at the 2017 Volunteering Victoria State Volunteer Awards.

You can read the full list of winners here.


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