Whyalla mother gives back to children’s charity

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By Kaia Wallis

Compassion, determination and a willingness to give back have led to Whyalla woman Susan Burgess raising more than $40,000 for a children’s charity.

After Variety the Children’s Charity donated Susan a wheelchair accessible vehicle for her son Joseph, Susan asked just one question, “what can we give back?”

The family had previously driven a sedan without wheelchair access and the new vehicle, valued at more than $50,000, had left Susan wanting to give back to the charity.

“It was a two-person job before to get Joseph in the car,” Susan says.

“Now he gets excited every time we go for a drive, he can see out the windows and it has given us so much freedom.”

Susan says she often struggled to find support for 12-year-old Joseph, who lives with schizencephaly, a rare neurological disorder that affects motor skills and cognitive ability leaving him wheelchair bound.

Joseph, 12, is able to get around easier thanks to his family’s new wheelchair accessible vehicle donated by Variety.

“It was such a big thing [the vehicle] and we just wanted to give other families the same help, it can be a struggle as a parent of a child with a disability,” she says.

“Variety gave Joseph a chance to be a kid, to be a part of the community and that’s why we wanted to give back.”

Susan soon went out to the local community, fundraising $12,000 in just six months for Variety, a non-profit organisation that raises crucial funds for children who are sick, disadvantaged or have special needs.

That number swelled to $30,000 when the Burgess family joined close to 100 vehicles on the road at the 2018 Variety SA Bash, an annual event that sees a cohort of vehicles travel across the SA outback after months of fundraising.

Susan has now raised around $40,000 for the charity and has no intentions of slowing down. Her 2019 fundraising plans have already kicked off with a number of locally made calendars sold and a monthly market set to start on February 10 in Whyalla, both raising funds for the charity.

Susan’s ‘Car 86’ on the 2018 Variety 4WD adventure. Image: Supplied

Susan says Variety’s presence in the Eyre Peninsula community has grown substantially since her first fundraiser in 2016, with 10 locals now volunteering their time to help raise funds.

“We have a wonderful team of people and the community has got to know the charity and of course everyone knows Joseph,” she says.

Her dedication to fundraising hasn’t gone unnoticed either, Susan was honoured at Whyalla’s 2019 Australia Day Award celebrations with a Community Service Award.

“It was another inspiring occasion on Australia Day as the community was able to acknowledge these wonderful Whyalla citizens,” Whyalla Mayor Clare McLaughlin says.

While Susan says it was wonderful to have her journey acknowledged by the local community, she remains humble about the recognition.

“It was a really proud moment, but it wasn’t needed at all, it was just great to share what we do with the community,” she adds.

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