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Taanya Widdicombe pictured in the 90s/early 2000s

Taanya Widdicombe: Director Corporate & Service Development at St John of God Geelong Hospital and caregiver for 34 years.

I began working for St John of God Geelong Hospital around 1990, when I was moonlighting as a casual Registered Theatre Nurse in the operating theatre. After I had my children, it became my main place of work, and to me it felt like one big family - everyone was connected.

A girlfriend I worked with came to me one day and said we needed to raise money for a ‘bear hugger’, which was a piece of equipment used to keep patients warm and comfortable when coming out of theatre. We entered into a bike ride with a goal to raise $3,000… and ended up raising considerably more!

A few years later, in 1994, St John of God Foundation was established. I didn’t know much about it at the time, but I found myself looking around our hospital and noticing things that needed fixing or upgrading, and there always seemed to be a lack of funds.

I started working for the Foundation as the Community Development Manager, and we partnered with the Lighthouse Foundation to run a support service for vulnerable youth in Geelong. We raised funds to sustain the service through golf days, auctions, and sausage sizzles, and so on.

In 1999, the service became the first ‘Horizon House’ in Australia, which is now operated by St John of God Social Outreach services. Demand for this unique service grew quickly.

We ran a fundraising campaign that raised over $1 million in donations from philanthropists (including our patron, the late Frank Costa), local businesses, events, and donations from the community. This enabled us to grow and build Horizon Houses across Victoria, and the program eventually expanded into Western Australia as well. It was a lot of hard work getting it up and running, but I feel incredibly proud of what we achieved, and to see young people empowered to flourish through Horizon House is extremely rewarding.

I eventually left the Foundation team and started working as a project manager for various building redevelopments at the hospital – but there was always more fundraising to be done. In my time as Director of Community Development, then Director of Hospital Redevelopments, right through to my current role as Director of Corporate & Service Development, I’ve overseen many more fundraising campaigns and witnessed how community donations have helped to build the St John of God Geelong Hospital we see today – from significant refurbishments in Day Oncology and Special Care Nursery, extra beds in the Emergency Department, to the latest medical equipment and technology.

I remember one man, Barry Bell, who was treated for cancer at our hospital and decided that he wanted to raise funds to help other patients going through cancer treatment. Barry inspired the development of a new day oncology centre for Geelong, which has completely transformed the way we provide cancer care to our community. To see Barry’s face when we officially opened the centre – 100% built on community donations - was something I’ll never forget. Barry has sadly passed away now, but his family still talk about that day. That was a significant moment for all of us.

To just say ‘thank you’ to donors feels too obvious… but I am forever grateful for the fact that people in our community have been moved and reached out to help others. Donations really do make a genuine, tangible difference to people’s lives. Money is one thing, but seeing the difference a gift makes to people who need help is something else.

Joan Cunningham, Nurse Manager, St John of God Subiaco Hospital

Joan Cunningham: Nurse Manager at St John of God Subiaco Hospital and caregiver for over 30 years.

Donor support has helped to provide two new telemetry fetal monitoring machines in our hospital – I cannot even tell you how meaningful this is to the midwives and the families in our care. Thank you so much.

We have a bold vision for the future of maternity care in WA, and support from our community will help us to achieve the standard of excellence we aspire to.

Marie Condon pictured as a young nurse 

Marie Condon: Clinical Nurse Consultant – Cancer Services at St John of God Murdoch Hospital and caregiver for over 30 years.

I began my service on 31st January 1994 before the hospital opened. On the opening day, February 14th, I was on night shift – alone on the ward with no patients. In the early days it was really like a family, and in the 30 years since then our family has grown exponentially and the ‘house’ has had many renovations and additions.

It has been an exciting ride for me with many different positions from Registered Nurse to Nurse Manager of Cancer Centre, and now a donor-funded Clinical Nurse Consultant position, which has been the pinnacle of my career and has benefitted many, many cancer patients and bolstered support and education for our nurses.

The generosity of spirit shown by our donors has enriched the lives of many, has made possible the impossible, and has made significant differences to patients and their families to assist at a time when it is most needed. Thank you.

Cath Bolam as a young nurse in the seventies

Cath Bolam: Contract Design Lead – Clinical at St John of God Health Care, and caregiver for over 45 years.

I started my career as a nurse at St John of God Subiaco Hospital in 1976, and since then my career journey has taken me down many different pathways – including clinical, theatre, midwifery and management.

Thanks to generous support from our donor community, I recently worked with hospitals across Australia to procure Cuddle Beds for our palliative care units. These special beds are so important for nurturing connection during end of life care, and helping patients and their loved ones to feel safe and comfortable during an incredibly difficult time. I also saw just how far-reaching and long-lasting the support from you, our donors, is.

 Old photo of St John of God Geraldton Hospital main entrance 

Alison Dawson: Director of Mission Integration at St John of God Geraldton Hospital, and caregiver for 37 years.

I started working at St John of God Geraldton Hospital when I was 16 years old, as a nursing assistant. In 2002, I was successful in gaining the role of Director of Mission Integration. In this time I’ve found St John of God Health Care to be an organisation that has served the local community, and as far north as Carnarvon and Karratha, in many ways.

Over the years I have also witnessed a variety of support for the local hospital from huge fundraising by the community to build the hospital to the small donations of which donors have faith that they are supporting something very good that is making a difference in people’s lives. To our donors I say sincerely, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Your gift can change a life.