How Coles is helping homesick kids
SITTING down to a home cooked meal is a simple pleasure that many people take for granted.
But for families caring for a critically ill child it is a daily routine easily lost between hospital stays and doctor's appointments, as mum's cooking is often what kids miss the most.
Coles has teamed up with children's hospitals from around the country to cure homesickness in sick kids by selling homemade pasta sauce, spelt 'Mum's Sause' to help raise funds and make childrens' hospital stays easier.
The fundraising initiative hopes to combat the shocking figure of homesickness experienced by 50 per cent of hospitalised children aged 8-18 every year in Australia.
"Homesickness isn't always recognised as a serious complication of illness, and this is the first time it has been the focus of a fundraising campaign to address it," said Sydney Children's Hospital CEO Nicola Stokes.
Fifty cents of every jar sold will go towards purchasing medical equipment and technology, and support programs to enhance children's hospital wards and rooms.
Coles Chief Property and Store Commercial Officer Thinus Keeve said the sauce has mum's secret ingredient (pumpkin) to give it a natural sweetness.
Since the first year of his life, Luca Delac, 8, from Sydney has suffered seizures for up to 45 minutes due to Dravet syndrome, a catastrophic epilepsy with developmental delays.
Diagnosed with autism and ADHD, Luca has been a frequent visitor at the Children's Hospital at Westmead where he's often homesick.
"Any parent who currently has or has had a child in hospital can relate to this feeling of missing home," said mum Candice.
"Providing food that is familiar to them is important both in making the child feel relaxed, and the parent feeling relief that their child is eating something they enjoy."
Madi Fox, 13, from South Australia suffered an acquired brain injury in 2017 after being hit by a car while out walking the family dog.
She was in a coma for three weeks and spent a further six months at the Women's and Children's Hospital in North Adelaide.
"Madi had to learn how to walk, talk and eat again," said mum Sally. "She cried every night I left the hospital and longed to leave with me to eat her favourite spaghetti bolognese."
"It broke my heart each night listening to my child cry for home when I couldn't do anything to help."
Reece Androutsos, 7, from North Brisbane has spent the majority of his life in hospital, suffering from Down syndrome, a kidney infection and chronic lung disease.
Doctors at the Prince Charles Hospital in Brisbane said Reece probably had 12 hours to live if mum Julie hadn't rushed him to the emergency room when she did.
He was six-months-old at the time and was suffering with severe urosepsis, an infection in the urinary tract.
"The first four years he was in and out of hospital and I spent most of my nights staying with him," said Ms Androutsos.
"He didn't like to eat hospital food so I prepared his favourite (spaghetti bolognese) and kept frozen portions at home so I could take to the hospital. I'd do anything to help Reece feel more at home."
Diagnosed with a rare kidney disease called nephrotic syndrome, Morrissey Kinnear, 5, from Victoria felt out of her comfort zone while staying at Monash Children's Hospital.
"It was hard for her to eat anything," said mum Meaghan. "It wasn't until friends brought in home cooked meals like spaghetti bolognese that Morrissey was able to enjoy her time in hospital."
"Coles had recently tested the pasta sauce with Morrissey, who gave it a big thumbs up," said Ms Kinnear. "I've cooked with the sauce and it's definitely a taste kids will love."
Diagnosed last year with neuroblastoma - a rare form of cancer - Eleanor Oakley, 2, is between hospital visits, travelling from her Tasmania home to the Royal Hobart Hospital, the Melbourne Royal Children's Hospital, and to a hospital in Michigan in the United States.
"Eleanor is amazingly resilient but she's constantly missing home and pool time with dad," said mum Jacqui.
"We often spend months in hospital and to have time together as a family with a homecooked meal would be amazing."