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Special Needs, Finances and Fundraising

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  • Article summary:

    How we raised money for our daughter's operation.

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Special Needs, Finances and Fundraising

One of the biggest challenges a special needs family can face is the stress of the financial burden it may bring. In South Africa we have very few state services in place to assist with the cost of therapies and equipment, some of us are on medical aids but they seem to run out earlier and earlier these days.

Simple things like buying a pair of shoes for example; for my first daughter we could pick out shoes from any store, look for the specials or buy online – it was something we didn’t have to think twice about. Whereas, my other daughter can only wear orthopaedic shoes or we can only buy certain shoes that will fit over her orthotics; which often come with a huge price tag. Then, we need to raise one of her shoes which costs a small fortune, only to have to buy more a few months later as they wear quite quickly due to her dragging her feet in her walker.

Shoes. Something so simple, but not when you’re a special needs parent.

There are so many other financial elements that most would not even think twice about. Things like petrol, to get to all of those appointments you need to travel to. The never-ending list of equipment that isn’t covered by funding, medication that is essential, specialised diets which dramatically increase the grocery bill, materials to continue daily therapy at home and, a big factor – employment.

Having a child with special needs makes working opportunities quite difficult and more often than not only one parent can return to full time work so the other is free to attend to the daily needs of your child. Or perhaps work hours need to be cut to be able to get your child to therapy appointments. And many parents are doing this whole gig solo which I can only imagine greatly intensifies the financial load they are placed under.

I am thankful that my husband has a really good job, one that is stressful and requires long working hours but is stable and able to provide for our family of 5, so I am able to work where I can and stay home to be with my girls and attend to my daughter’s needs. We weren’t going on holidays, having regular outings but we were comfortable and were happy to go without when needed and stick to a budget to make things work.

One of our daughters has cerebral palsy, she is five and ever since she was diagnosed, a surgery called SDR (selective dorsal rhizotomy) was constantly on our minds. It’s a life changing surgery that could help ease some of the spasticity and tightness in her body to make everyday living that little bit easier. At the time this operation was quiet controversial here.

When Willow was three years old we applied to have the operation done in St. Louis in the USA and she was accepted. This was great news but there was a bit of a dark cloud that weighed down on our excitement. The cost!

We needed to raise around a R1 000 000 to make it a reality.

As you can imagine we didn’t have this money just sitting around and we weren’t in a position to borrow it either. We needed to fundraise. This is something both my husband and I felt a bit awkward about. I guess we just found it hard to ask for help from people.

But we had to look at the bigger picture – this was something that could provide our daughter with a much easier life, dramatically reduce pain and even give her the chance to walk independently. We put our pride aside and began our fundraising adventure.

A year later and we are so close to our target and have the funds to get our daughter to her operation. I can not take credit for barely any of this as we had an army of support helping us raise this money but what I can do is share what we did in hope that it can help others.

Fundraising night.

This is what began our fundraising and it’s what raised the most money. It took a lot of planning from my best friend and sister and there was a heap involved. We had a sit down dinner somewhere that gave us a cheaper deal so that we could make money on the ticket prices. We hired a hypnotist as the entertainment, he was happy to charge at a cheaper price and then we had an iPod for dancing to follow. Tickets included one drink on arrival and then guests brought their own, this saved on the expense of the night. We had some businesses sponsor the night for which they were highly credited and it was tax deductible for them. Leading up to the event we collected prizes and donations for auctions and raffles. We had games on the nights which required a small fee to play.

The night was a huge success both money wise and entertainment wise. Our guests had a fantastic time and the love in the room was incredible.

Bake sale.
My gorgeous niece and her friends held a bake sale in their street they made flyers to hand out beforehand and signs to attract traffic. This is something that could also be done at local sporting event or the markets.

Civvies days.
We have had a school wear civvies for my daughter and her horse riding therapy also held a week long fundraiser in which everyone wore blue and brought a gold coin donation.

Crazy hair days.
This is something that my daughter gymnastics did to raise money. Everyone turned up with crazy hair and made a donation. This could be done in schools and workplaces too.

Coastal walk.
My mum organized a huge 40km Coastal track walk we had a team of walkers and each got our own sponsors.

Work functions.
We have had so many friends and families do their own fundraisers at work. Things such as head shaves, BBQs, collecting cans to recycle and donation tins.

Local markets.
My friend organised for us to stand at the entry at our local markets, we had flyers to hand out and donation tins.

Small businesses.
We have had a few small businesses give us a portion of their sales.

Fun runs.
Our local gym organised a fun run. Tickets were sold and donations for sausage sizzles were taken on the day.

My sister sourced out a company to make shirts that said ‘willow’s wish to walk’ which she sold at a more expensive price to make a profit on.

We had a GoFundMe from the beginning of our campaign which we share on social media platforms.

Local charities.
We have been in contact with a local charity and although they haven’t been able to help us raise funds they have given us ideas. They can also help collect money, offer volunteers or help with assistance of purchasing equipment.

We had a very talented videographer make a video of our family to get the word out there and create awareness.

Social media is such a powerful tool to put things out there into the world to gain support and create awareness. We have had some friends put it out there that for their birthday they wanted donations to Willows account as a gift.

As I mentioned before I am extremely lucky that I had so much support to assist with each and every one of these fundraising ideas. It still blows me away that we have managed to raise this money and I am so beyond grateful and appreciative to every single person who has helped us. Throughout this process I have learnt that there are many kind and supportive people out there who genuinely want to support others.

I hope these ideas can help another family on their fundraising journey.

Everybody needs a little help sometimes


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