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December 13, 2004

Dhaira has special reason to party

From: Brisbane Courier Mail - Brisbane,Queensland,Australia - Dec 13, 2004

Leanne Edmistone, health reporter

POCKET dynamo Dhaira Fraser is pretty speedy in her K-Walker, but even she couldn't take in all the sights, sounds and tastes on offer at the Brisbane Special Children's Christmas Party yesterday.

Dhaira, 4, had her face painted by fairies, checked out the Queensland Ambulance van, collected balloons, stickers and a Queensland Rail showbag, then made a beeline for the large red jumping castle.

Mum Maria Van Wyk, of Pimpama on the Gold Coast, said she was struggling to keep up with her little girl, who has cerebral palsy and is profoundly deaf. Dhaira had a cochlear implant fitted a few months ago.

"Now she's got her independence (with the K-Walker) there's no stopping her, she wants to go and play with all the other kids and keep up with them," Ms Van Wyk said.

Yesterday's extravaganza at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre marks its 10th year in Brisbane, providing a day of free food, entertainment and fun for about 2500 special needs and underprivileged kids from across southeast Queensland.

Santa also made a special visit, taking time to hear each child's wishes and giving them at least three presents from his toy room fitted out with soft toys, remote-controlled car, toy guitars, construction sets and games.

Co-ordinator Paul Munro yesterday said it took 11 months to find sponsors, buy the toys and organise the event, and four days to set up the two halls.

Mr Munro said the demand from families grew every year, as did the difficulty in coming up with bigger, brighter and better ideas to entertain the children.

"Just to see the smile on a child's face as they come through the toy room to meet Santa, to see the displays and activities, and to provide a place where they can come and be themselves . . . sometimes I feel like Santa myself," he said.

"The feedback from the parents is the child has the experience of seeing other children like them, so they don't feel they are alone."

As well as the visit from Santa, there was free rides, a jumping castle, face painting and craft activities, and the chance to scramble through a fire engine, ambulance, police car and ride the SES quad bike.

A four-hour stage show featuring Popstars winner Kayne Taylor, singer Troy Cassar-Daley, basketball legend Leroy Loggins and sports stars from the Brisbane Lions and Queensland Lions.

And there was plenty of free food and drinks on offer to keep the families' strength up for more fun.

© Queensland Newspapers