Written by Kerrie Alexander
Just about every ward of the Hervey Bay Hospital has a cupboard full of wonderful and colourful handmade cotton drawstring bags filled with knitted teddy bear and overnight stay essentials for children.
The most amazing part, there’s just one single lady to thank for them.
Trish Hummerston was volunteering at the hospital in August 2016 when she noticed a great number of children looking anxious in the waiting room and throughout the hospital after being admitted.
Being the selfless, caring, and passionate volunteer that Trish is (she works for four other charities), her mind instantly went into overdrive, thinking how she could help put children at ease during their hospital stay, and give the parents some reprieve from some very apprehensive kids.
With a $500 donation from her son’s landscaping business, Comfort Kids Zone came to life.
“I would see so many children come up there with Mum, Dad, Nana or whoever, and I see how bored and anxious they were … sometimes they can be up there for a couple of hours,” Trish said.
“I knew I had to do something to help.”
Trish has since dug deep from her own pockets, coupled with an immense amount of fundraising to keep the project running.
Over 7900 material bags, that also double as library bags, have been handed out since the beginning, filled with a teddy, shampoo and conditioner, toothbrush and paste, soap, comb or brush and activity books and colouring in pencils for children admitted to A&E, Pathology, and Allied Health.
All children in the A&E waiting room also receive a bag with a teddy, activity book and colouring in pencils.
Trish said the heart-warming feedback from nursing staff and doctors at the hospital, and the smiles on the kids faces when they see their bag of goodies, is the driving force behind her hard work.
Parents who often forget the essentials in the rush to get to hospital are also always incredibly grateful.
“The doctors and nurses just love the bags, especially the teddies, because they act as a distraction for the kids if they’re having any procedures or blood tests done.
“It’s like a show bag for the children … they often think that they can’t take them home but when I say, ‘yes darling, you can take them with you’, their faces light up.
“It’s makes such a big difference to any of the children that find themselves at the hospital for whatever reason. They cuddle those teddies like you wouldn’t believe.
“It really is important to me, and it’s a great service for the hospital and community and that’s the best thing about it. It gives me goose bumps just talking about it.”
It’s a service that Trish is determined to keep going but that can only happen with the assistance of the Fraser Coast community.
The project has received some incredible support over the years, including a $20,000 donation from the Fisherman’s Ball in 2018, and ongoing support from the Hervey Bay RSL Community Grants Program.
The teddies and the bags are also crafted and donated by the exceptionally talented ladies from the ‘A Touch of Craft’ group in Hervey Bay.
However, even with this support, Covid restrictions over the past 18 months meant that fundraising came to a standstill and the not-for-profit charities funds started to dwindle.
Each bag costs about $18 to produce.
Trish is calling on the community to make a donation to the charity or even just donate wool, filling, ribbon, material, colouring books and pencils or hygiene essentials to help keep the service running.
“I’m passionate about the fact that most people in the region have children or grandchildren; we are one community and it’s nice to be able to give them a little bit of comfort when they go to hospital.
“It’s just so close to my heart and it would be such a shame if I couldn’t keep it going.
“I think it’s a wonderful service and so does the hospital but it’s becoming very expensive for me to keep up … but I just don’t want it to end.”
Anyone who would like to help can reach out to Trish on 0400 242 261.