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Red Hill Special School's Bus goes Wild!

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L- R  Hannah, Adania  & James; back row: teacher, Caya, nurse, Claire and student teacher, Laura


For James it was getting up close to a possum and for Hannah it was stroking a snake. Adania couldn’t help but giggle when she hugged a koala and she was completely captivated by the lorikeets.  These three children from the Red Hill Special School had their world opened up to the wonders of nature when at a recent school camp they spent a day at the Currumbin Sanctuary.

Their teacher Caya Finlay explains that sensory experiences are really important. “Our group of children are severely multiply disabled. They could touch, feel and smell the animals.  Even in those of our children who can demonstrate a limited response, we could see the changes in their eyes as they patted the furry little creatures and fed the lorikeets.  We put food pellets in their laps and kangaroos came up and munched away, nuzzling them. It was magical.”

The three-day camp on the Gold Coast gave Caya and her colleagues, nurse Claire and teacher aide Laura the chance to be with the children away from the routines of school. “It was wonderful for us to be able to spend a little bit of extra time with the children out of the classroom.  At night, sitting down with them, we could get to know them better, get closer to them. It makes such a difference – and we couldn’t have done it without the Sullivan Nicolaides Pathology bus.”  

Handing over the bus in February [read more here]

The bus, bought by the practice at the start of the school year, is being kept busy.  Principal Pamela Stack tells us the children depend on it every day to take them out to play.   “It is making such a difference,” she says.  “Every one of our 54 children needs some sort of help. All of our students have an intellectual impairment. A number are reliant on the use of wheelchairs, some are sight-impaired; many have specialised health issues. This makes even simple things like a visit to their playground at a nearby park impossible without transport.”  

The practice stepped in to help because the old bus was becoming a costly nightmare. Sullivan Nicolaides Pathology CEO, Dr Michael Harrison says it was a pleasure to have the opportunity: “We couldn’t be more thrilled. Red Hill is indeed a very special school and we couldn’t think of a group of people more deserving of help.

``We heard about their need for a bus through the AMA Queensland Foundation.  The previous bus was 16 years old – older than most of the children – and it was a struggle to keep it on the road. The school was paying thousands of dollars each year on maintenance that could have been better spent on something else.

Hannah stroking a friendly snake

``We funded an air-conditioned Toyota minibus modified to take the children’s wheelchairs.  We’re most grateful to the AMA Queensland Foundation for alerting us to the problem.”

Sullivan Nicolaides Pathology has been making regular donations to AMA Queensland Foundation since its inception in 2000 and they say they are proud to be our longest-standing corporate sponsor.  Their donations have funded scholarships for rural medical students, bought life-saving equipment for a remote hospital and stepped in with smaller donations whenever they could. Over the next three years Sullivan Nicolaides Pathology's annual $25,000 donation will be dedicated to paying for the bus.


Adania was enthralled by the lorikeets

Dr Harrison says the involvement with the school has affected many people at the practice.  “We’ve been blown away by the children and the passion and dedication of the staff we’ve met. It is a privilege to be able to do something for them.

“This amazing little school is a truly inspirational place.   These intellectually and physically disabled youngsters, for whom a mainstream school is out of the question, are given the opportunity to live their lives to the full and take their places in the world.

“They have very little outdoor space. Woolcock Park, only 200 metres away, is their playground but many of the students are not capable of making the short distance themselves.


James just loved this little possum

``The bus is also used to visit the library and local shops to give the children the sense they are part of the wider community and for excursions – for instance to travel to Moggill for horse riding. Being outdoors is vital to the children.”

Note - This article was written with the help of Sullivan Nicolaides Pathology and Red Hill Special School