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October 30, 2002

These volunteers have one goal: help the kids

From: Newcastle Star, Australia
Oct 30, 2002

"If we can save one child then that is worth all the work we do."

These are the words of Colleen Bisson from the John Hunter Children's Hospital Kids Club at a presentation of money raised by this year's Woodworking and Craft Expo.

Her words epitomised the feelings of hundreds of tireless volunteers from many Hunter organisations who helped make the expo such a success.

The expo has raised another $45,000 for the kids at John Hunter Children's Hospital, making the total raised in the seven years of the expo $264,000.

It is organised by The Woodturners of the Hunter and is aided by an army of volunteers from Lions clubs and craft guilds.

Each year, the organisers help buy a vital piece of equipment for John Hunter Children's Hospital, through the kids club.

This year the money raised has bought a $35,000 automated ABR, an expensive piece of equipment that helps detect if premature babies at the hospital have hearing problems.

Director of newborn services at the hospital Dr Andy Gill explained to the audience at the function that premature babies have an increased risk of hearing loss and it was important to test each baby so that a hearing aid can be fitted at an early stage.

"Before we started this program hearing aids were not fitted to children until they were about 12 months old," Dr Gill said.

"We are now able to fit them to babies as young as four months."

This ensures the children have the best opportunity to learn to speak during these vital months while they are learning to vocalise.

The new equipment is much more sophisticated than the current equipment and also enables audiologists to test the babies while they are in the nursery.

Previously, babies had to be tested in a soundproof room, which meant transporting them to another section of the hospital.

The main theme of the presentation was the relentless effort of volunteers to help the children at the hospital and the sheer number of people willing to give up their time to make the expo a success.

Lord Mayor of Newcastle John Tate spoke at the function, saying he was always struck by what can be achieved by people working together in the community.

"John Hunter Children's Hospital is so very important to our community and it is wonderful to see the community coming together to help," Cr Tate said.

"There are children not yet born who will benefit from this equipment."

Cr Tate said it was encouraging to see the community working together in times when the world is being battered by acts of evil and destruction.

"At times like these we start to feel fragile and question what is going on in the world, but events like this help us realise there is much more good than there is bad and as long as the majority of the community works towards good then we have got a bright future for our children," he said.

"The community of Newcastle and the Hunter is a solid community because we get in and have a go and make a contribution."

A special presentation was made to expo director Keith Boaz, who is retiring after seven years in the voluntary position.

Mr Boaz was a driving force behind the expo and has volunteered countless hours of his time to ensure its success.

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