Thousands of cans and bottles recycled through Return and Earn’s reverse vending machine network can now be used to help sick kids, with the Starlight Children’s Foundation’s Containers 4 Kids campaign kicking off a donation appeal.
Environment Minister Matt Kean said from now until April, everyone can donate the proceeds from their eligible beverage containers to the Containers 4 Kids campaign at any Return and Earn machine and help to raise $250,000.
‘We’re encouraging NSW recyclers to return their bottles and cans and donate their refunds to help brighten the lives of sick kids in NSW,’ said Mr Kean.
‘With visitations heavily restricted due to COVID-19, sick kids in hospital are experiencing isolation from loved ones, and the need for Starlight’s vital services and positive distraction has never been greater,’ he said. ‘This is a wonderful opportunity for NSW recyclers to help a fantastic cause.’
Since launching in December 2017, the Return and Earn scheme has generated over $24.5 million in donations and fees for charities and community groups.
Starlight Children Foundation has been brightening the lives of seriously ill and hospitalised children and young people since 1988.
At six months of age, with suspected pneumonia, Aru was sent for a chest x-ray. Her only symptom was she was breathing faster than usual. Scans revealed Aru’s left lung had collapsed. Her heart was only functioning at eight per cent and was failing due to virus which had severely weakened her heart.
Her mother Smital and father Kiran were numb as doctors told them their only child needed a heart transplant. Her current heart wasn’t able to pump blood to her organs.
‘The shock was unimaginable. Aru was born perfectly healthy and suddenly she needed life-saving surgery,’ Smital remembers.
The family stayed in Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital for six months waiting for Aru’s heart transplant. During those heartbreaking months, the family discovered Starlight. When Aru was first moved into the ward, Captain Starlight’s visit brought a beaming smile to Aru’s face – a big relief considering she was plugged into life-saving equipment and limited in her mobility.
Not long before her first birthday, Aru underwent life-saving transplant surgery. Afterwards, Aru required weekly specialist care in hospital. Treatment complications has led Aru to develop a food aversion so now she is tube-fed. Aru is also currently undergoing treatment for post-transplant lymphoproliferative disease (PTLD) – a rare complication of solid organ transplants.
‘Our life is now centered around the hospital,’ Smital said, ‘I can’t work anymore as I need to take care of Aru. My husband is our sole bread earner which limits us. Hospital is our new normal.
‘Starlight does an amazing job of taking the away the stress from Aru’s hospital stays. This is so important for kids like Aru who can spend months in hospital. When you see your child singing and dancing with Captain Starlight, it’s a stress-buster for you as parents, too.’
Aru, now a bubbly, chatterbox three-year old, loves visiting the Starlight Express Room to play with Captain Starlight and do art and crafts. The family affectionately call it her ‘treat’ after treatment and love that the room has something for children of all ages.
‘Every time my daughter has a painful procedure or drug infusion which makes her feel horrible, as soon as she sees Captain Starlight, her face lights up and she forgets the pain,’ said Smital. ‘They remember her every time we visit. The Captains are Aru’s favourite type of people! They empower kids by asking what they want to do – just having choices in an environment typically strips those away means the world to sick kids.’
How to help
Recyclers in NSW can donate their 10 cent refunds at any Return and Earn reverse vending machine by selecting ‘donate’ on the screen and choosing ‘Containers 4 Kids’. One hundred per cent of the refunds will go directly to Starlight Children’s Foundation.
CEO of Starlight Louise Baxter said, ‘Starlight has been there for sick kids throughout the challenges of the past 18 months. Only with the help of the community and our valued partners such as Return and Earn, TOMRA and Cleanaway can we continue to bring happiness to sick kids when they need it most.’
The Containers 4 Kids campaign will run until 3 April 2022. Updates on funds raised and tangible outcomes will be posted on Return and Earn’s Facebook page and website.
To find your nearest Return and Earn RVM go to returnandearn.org.au or show your support on social media using #containers4kids.