Created as a Trust called the Right Start…
The Right Start was established in 2009 as a support group for parents who had given birth to children with Down Syndrome and, although it had its beginnings as a support group run by mothers of children with Down Syndrome, this original group of women refused to accept that more could not be done. Mrs Glenda Graban, the founder and voice of The Right Start in the Wollondilly and Macarthur region, said the experience of giving birth to a child with Down syndrome shaped her call to action with other mothers in the Wollondilly-Macarthur region. Their shared experiences at that time are as one and tell a story of a system in New South Wales where there was a lack of early intervention support dedicated to children with Down syndrome. It was a system that provided minimal, if any, support to new parents who may be struggling with the notion of having a child with Down syndrome & failed to adequately inform families of children with Down syndrome about programs and assistance that is available to them, aside from their local paediatrician or general practitioner.
Glenda and her team of dedicated individuals and families recognised there was a gap in support for families with children with Down syndrome and made tremendous strides to ensure the gap was closed. The Right Start Foundation was looking to have its programs and even a centre established with government assistance as either a pilot program or as a program recognised for funding under the federal government’s A Better Start for Children with
In May of this year, Mr. Geoffrey Scharer who owned the George IV pub in Picton, passed away & generously donated $100,000 to the Right Start Foundation – the same year saw another incredibly generous donation of another $100,000 given when an Oran Park home has sold at auction for $521,000 to Brendan and Sharon Sammit and their two children, raising around $100,000 for The Right Start charity.
The money that was raised through the auction was going to enable The Right Start to build Australia’s first specialised Down syndrome centre in the Macarthur region where families and their children can meet on regular basis to offer help and support to one another. Sadly, this did not come to pass.
As we move forward a few years, the Macarthur families who have children with Down syndrome found themselves with access to services in the region after the RSF formalised a partnership with Community Links Wollondilly. The partnership gave families access to subsidised therapies and specialised support.
The Right Start Foundation chairman at the time, Angus Cox, said the foundation could not afford to build a stand-alone centre, its initial objective, so decided to partner with another local existing organisation, which already had the facilities, staff and infrastructure in place and were helping local families in need, and Community Links Wollondilly fitted that brief perfectly.
The Right Start would fund Community Links to engage a project officer to assist in providing counselling and social work, subsidised speech, physio and occupational therapies, as well as a permanent meeting venue for our support.
The Right Start Foundation remained committed to giving parents support and letting them know that they’re not on their own in getting that support. The introduction of the NDIS sees the focus of The Right Start Foundation change more towards getting that support and knowledge from other parents into those newer ones who need it. Handing out that information to new parents going through their own trials so that peer support is available and to be able to be around people that know about Down syndrome, sharing their points of view – this is what The RSF was all about. To be able to put a face out into the community so that people could connect, people could have a laugh or have a cry with people who will understand & who may have already been down the path that they are traveling down. This would be the last year the Right Start could provide that financial assistance for family’s children with Down syndrome as this is the year the NDIS is implemented. That financial support took loads off people’s shoulders & was a massive help to those who we were able to assist. Now the Right Start wanted to continue to change people’s lives, & just giving them a sense of friendship and community (even without providing grants and funds) helped families whose children and families did need extra support obtain that support so that the children and their families get what they needed and what they deserved.
After the partnership with Community Links comes to a close, a new partnership in Macarthur aims to provide crucial support for children with Down Syndrome. The Right Start Foundation would begin to run monthly meetups at Campbelltown’s ‘The Shine Shed’ for children to work their muscles and socialise with other participants. The Shine Shed is a sensory play space for anyone with conditions like autism and Down syndrome. The Right Start’s board director Jenelle van Look said, “The Shine Shed has a sensory room set up which helps calm down the children.” Ms van Look said the facility helped sensory-enhanced children to socialise with other kids so they can share the experience and be there for each other. The Foundation is still providing support for families of children living with Down syndrome & anyone touched by a loved one with Down syndrome is invited to come along and learn more. We were meeting every second Sunday of the month.
In 2020 our partnership with local restaurant Upstairs Fred’s who helped host RSF charity dinners sadly came to an end when fire destroyed the building. It appears that Fred’s will not be re-built.
Board members came & went over the course of its 10-year history, & then had to battle new challenges during the global pandemic of 2020 – 2021. In that time the board focussed on new digital ventures, meeting up when they could. Our biggest achievement during this time was to commission our dream project & inject some of our hard-earned funds into it & we are proud to say we have a beautiful new way to help our Down syndrome communities as we look to launch it in 2022
Coles and Colm Donnelly held a fund-raising BBQ that raised tens of thousands of dollars & continued to offer support by donating iPads back in the day to some of the families
With your help through donations, we can help everyone get the right start. We are grateful for donations of any size.