Lachie and friends: A Christmas wish

Tuesday 14 November 2017

Villa Maria Catholic Homes

A Wantirna South service for children with disabilities is urging the community to get behind its Christmas Appeal to help brighten the lives of the people it supports.

Lachie, aged 13, is one of around 200 children and adults with disabilities who attend Villa Maria Catholic Homes (VMCH) Flexible Respite Service in Wantirna South on holidays and weekends; getting out and about in the community, trying new activities and making new friends.

Like most of the children who use the service, Lachie is on the autism spectrum. This means if he gets a little bored, Lachie can get anxious and up to a bit of mischief.
With this in mind, VMCH is looking to raise $120,000 through its 2017 Christmas Appeal to transform the tired and outdated indoor and outdoor respite space into a fun, interactive and safe environment for Lachie and his friends to enjoy.

As a not-for-profit organisation, VMCH receives no funding for capital works and relies on community donations to reach its target.

Lachie’s mum, Fiona, is one of hundreds of parents who benefit from valuable respite while their children are in care.

She says she’d love to see the area given a facelift.

‘At the moment it really is just a spot to drop-off and pick-up. There’s nothing really there to stimulate the kids; there’s space but it’s not really utilised. Items to meet sensory needs like a trampoline, climbing wall or walking track would be great. Things to help the kids feel engaged and fulfilled, and reflect the high quality of the program delivered by the dedicated staff, would be great to see.’

The planned renovations, including a sensory garden, water feature, quiet area and play equipment, will make the area accessible and interactive.
The tired and outdated program space 
‘The building which houses the program was built in the 1970s as a nursing home and day hospital,’ said VMCH Disability Services General Manager David Williamson. ‘The design does not come close to meeting the purpose-built needs of children and adults with disabilities. Improving the space will not only help children now, but also help attract new families to the service.’

Fiona explains just how vital respite is for families like hers.

‘Having access to respite has actually changed how our family works. It means I can do a bit of (paid) work and also spend time with my other son, Tom, and meet his needs and desires,’ she said.

‘When Lachie is at respite it gives us a break to take a breath. For example, we were able to have a party for Tom’s birthday, which we couldn’t do with Lachie here as too many people in the house can be overwhelming for him.’

David urged the community to dig deep for the appeal.

‘All children deserve access to a safe, warm and secure space to relax and have fun. For children with disabilities, an interactive, calming and welcoming space is critical.’

If you can help, please call 1800 036 377 or visit

Picture: Lachie with flexi respite staff member Briannan 
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