By Casey Neill
A Dandenong girl helped to send off cyclists on a million-dollar ride for sick kids.
Jazmin Makawe-Zaicz was born prematurely, at 23 weeks.
She’s now eight years old and has complex needs. She has cerebral palsy, can’t speak and has “a special type of deafness”.
But nothing could stop ‘Jaz’ from sharing smiles with Chain Reaction in the Monash Starlight Express Room on Saturday 17 February.
The cycling crew will ride 1000 kilometres across New Zealand’s north island to raise $1 million for Starlight Children’s Foundation and Very Special Kids (VSK).
“We were so proud of her, she did so well,” Jaz’s mum Sue said.
“A lot of kids would be easily intimidated.”
Sue said Chain Reaction’s efforts were “incredibly crazy and awesome”.
“Who does 1000kms? I’ve got nothing but admiration for those guys,” she said.
Sue said VSK’s hospice and family co-ordinator were among the family’s main supports.
“Sometimes they send you tickets and stuff to little concerts that they have, and magic shows or the aquarium,” she said.
“They have holiday houses specially set up for the families.
“You have no idea how much that means to families like us.
“It’s so difficult to make sure you find somewhere that’s wheelchair accessible.
“Hotels don’t come set up with hoists.
“Kids like ours, they are a financial drain so you don’t always have the same opportunities in your savings to be able to go on holidays as much as you’d like.”
Sue said there was no other charity like VSK, and was also full of praise for Starlight.
“We’re unfortunately constant visitors to the Monash so it’s our second home,” she said.
“The Starlight guys are always coming around and entertaining us.
“It gives you something different during the day, to relieve that stress.”
Cash from previous Chain Reaction rides helped to open the Starlight Express Room at the Monash Children’s Hospital last October.
About 4500 sick kids and their families have used the treatment-free respite space since.
Funds raised through this year’s ride will help the Monash Starlight Express Room to open seven days a week and support the Captain Starlight ward program, which helps kids too unwell to leave their beds.
Donations will also help to upgrade the Very Special Kids hospice.
Visit www.chain-reaction.org.au/sponsor to support the cause.