With your help we hope to raise enough funds to build a two bedroom, self contained, semi-attached cottage at Maya's Rest, which will enable us to continue to host families of seriously ill children and families who are grieving the loss of a child. These free mini breaks for families include accommodation, meals and optional activities in hope of providing a chance for each family to rest, relax and recharge.
Impression of 'Alida's Cottage', which will be semi attached to the existing building at Maya's Rest - to provide privacy to guests and easy access to support when needed.
Read on to discover more about 'Alida's Cottage' and the story behind Maya's Rest, including the amazing little girl Maya, who inspired her family to build the existing retreat, that has been providing free mini breaks to families in need for over three years.
Also, read on to learn about the legacy of an inspirational little boy, Rio, whose family is raising funds and advocating to build a children's hospice in every state of Australia and how your donation will be passed onto Rio's Legacy if we don't reach our fundraising goals (unless requested otherwise by donors).
We also explain the future of Maya's Rest if we are unable to build the cottage.
Our past fundraising efforts for Alida's cottage have been collated and will be entered as offline donations to kick start the campaign and hopefully set us well on the way to success. The campaign will remain active until the 20th of May 2019.
The story so far...
On the 2nd of December 2011, we were excitedly awaiting the birth of our second daughter Maya. My pregnancy had been non-eventful, everything was normal with no cause for concern and my husband Mark, our two-year old daughter Amelia and I were extremely excited to meet the newest member of our little family.
However, not long after our little Maya was born, 'normal' ceased to exist for our family, and life as we new it took an incomprehensible turn.
Love at first sight - Amelia took every opportunity to cuddle her little sister Maya
Maya was born with a lump on her neck and spent her first night in the special care nursery before being transferred to Canberra Hospital. Results of an MRI scan saw Maya and I quickly airlifted to Sydney Children's Hospital in Randwick, which became our home for the next six weeks and second home for almost two years.
A biopsy of the lump delivered unimaginable news, baby Maya was born with a rare form of cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma. We were incredibly overwhelmed and confused, we had no idea a baby, our baby, could be born with cancer. Within weeks Maya had started a 43 week chemotherapy protocol. Mark and Amelia joined us in Sydney, staying at Ronald McDonald House. A life we never could have imagined unfolded around us.
Little Maya in hospital during one of her first rounds of chemo, having cuddles with Daddy.
In just under two years, Maya underwent 43 weeks of chemo, several surgeries, 6 weeks of radiation and then another 3 months of chemo. Most importantly Maya laughed, danced, sung and ate, inspiring the people around her with her strength and her cheeky little grin.
You can read in detail about Maya's journey on the Maya's Rest website under the 'stories' tab . In an oversimplified nutshell, Maya was an incredible child who defied the odds so many times. She was happy and sooooo funny, and despite her young age showed a level of understanding well beyond her years; so boasted her ever so proud and loving mother ;-)
Maya and I had so many happy times
Maya taught us to love unconditionally and not to worry about the small stuff. We spent every opportunity having fun and making precious memories that we hoped to reminisce about for years to come.
Heartbreakingly, treatment could only delay the spread of the cancer and it eventually overtook Maya's little body. Maya passed away just a few days before her second birthday, leaving us all completely and utterly shattered.
Amelia and Maya
I'll never forget holding my little girl in my arms as she took her last breath. Or watching my heartbroken husband hold his little girls limp body to his chest as he cried for her, for the life she would never live, for the life we'd never live together. Or the confusion on Amelia's face when her little sister couldn't talk or play anymore. It was (insert the most fitting expletive) horrible, as simple as that.
In the months before Maya passed away, when all treatment options were exhausted and Maya moved to palliative care, her medical team gave us three options; to keep her in hospital, take her to an aged care facility in Canberra or to care for her ourselves at home. Apparently there was not enough demand in the region to warrant a facility specifically for seriously ill and dying children (ridiculous right). We chose to care for Maya at home, but were fortunate enough to be able to travel beyond the imaginary boundaries of own region, to Manly in Sydney and spend time at one of only three children's hospices in Australia, an incredible place called Bear Cottage. In the end this was where Maya earned her angel wings.
After Maya died, broken and angry at the lack of local support for families like ours we vowed to make a difference. Every seriously ill child and their family deserves support during the most difficult time of their lives, every child and every single family matters, period.
Using our own heartache as fuel, within six months of Maya's death we found 12 acres of land close to the ACT/NSW border and started on or own mission to help families of seriously ill children. We sold everything we owned and bought the parcel of land and in February 2015, a little over a year from Maya's death, we started building Maya's Rest.
The building of Maya's Rest
Our plan was to provide free respite and mini breaks to families of seriously ill kids and families of children in home based palliative care, so they had somewhere to go other than hospital or an aged care facility. We didn't want families feeling isolated and unsupported, like we were left feeling during the hardest time of our life. Instead, we wanted to provide families a chance to escape and spend quality time together, making happy memories that would last a lifetime.
Slideshow about Maya's life and legacy
We hosted our first family in January 2016 and over the last 3 years we have hosted over 40 families at Maya's Rest, with most of our respite families visiting on multiple occasions. We have created a safe and nurturing place for families going through extremely difficult times, making sure they know they are not alone.
Within our first year, we extended our care to include bereaved families, providing support and mini breaks for families who are grieving the loss of a child.
The family based respite and mini-breaks that we offer is completely free and includes accommodation, meals and optional activities, designed to ensure a peaceful break for our guests, so they can rest, relax and recharge together as a family.
Maya's Rest is our family home, with two dedicated interconnecting respite bedrooms and a private bathroom. Guests also have sole use of the living areas during the day, while Mark, Amelia and I leave the house to give them family time. We return each evening to cook the family dinner, staying overnight in our own private section of the house.
We built the house in this way so we could start hosting families as soon as possible and not wait until we had enough funds to build a separate space for families needing a break. We explain to guests that it's like a B&B but all meals and optional activities are included, at no charge.
Maya's Rest is located on 12 acres, 30 mins from the ACT border - our animals provide a distraction for families.
Three years on and we would like to give families who stay with us their own space on the property via a two bedroom, wheelchair accessible, self contained apartment, which will be semi attached to the current building, that will be named 'Alida's Cottage'.
Alida's Cottage will enable families to completely relax, knowing we are right next door when they need support. We will still be able to provide meals, activities and the all important cup of tea (or glass of wine) paired with a shoulder to lean (cry) on. Building Alida's cottage will enable us to continue supporting families and once built we hope to support up to 40 families a year.
Floor plan of Alida's Cottage
We have the plans back from the architect which will soon be submitted to our local council, as part of a development application. We hope that by the time the plans have been approved, we will have raised enough money to ensure the success of the build, including supporting infrastructure (paths, ramps and parking), fit-out of the cottage and a little left over to help host families for free respite.
We find it really difficult to ask for help, but also understand that if we don't reach out we won't be able to continue supporting families at Maya's Rest, under the current arrangements. The families who stay with us would benefit greatly from their own fully self contained space, where they can relax, knowing we are next door when they need us.
After three years of hosting families, we would like to be able to start living a somewhat normal life, normality that we hope will come from reclaiming the common space within our family home. It breaks our hearts to admit that we are nearing the end of our capabilities, in the way we currently host families, but please know we will continue to do so for as long as we possibly can, in our little Maya's honour.
Knowing there's a risk that we won't raise enough money to fund our project, we have teamed up with the amazing Ryan and Karen Fowler of Rio's Legacy , to provide an alternative option for donated funds. Rio's Legacy honours the life of Ryan and Karen's beautiful little boy Rio, who also passed away at Bear Cottage.
Ryan and Karen are also raising funds to support families of seriously ill children by advocating to build a children's hospice in every state of Australia. Unless requested otherwise by donors, if we do not raise enough of our goal to ensure the success of our project, we will donate funds raised directly to Rio's Legacy, to help Ryan and Karen achieve their inspirational goals. Through Rio's Legacy, Ryan and Karen also support the existing hospices in Australia and other organisations supporting families of seriously ill children. To read more about their amazing efforts or make a tax deductible donation directly to Rio's Legacy, please visit www.rioslegacy.org.au
If we raise enough money to build 'Alida's Cottage,' but fall short of funds to help host families, we are considering the option of renting out the space for short stays to families looking for a country escape, with the funds collected from these getaways used to fund respite families for free. We've got back up plans for our back up plans and will do all we can to ensure the ongoing success of Maya's Rest!
Our loving little family, two months before Maya passed away - September 2013
We are so extremely grateful to all of the beautiful people who have helped us get this far. To our family, friends, community members, businesses, clubs, special interest groups and organisations who understand the importance of what we offer, and have helped raised vital funds to support families during extremely difficult times, thank you. We would never have made it this far without you, of that we are certain.
To all the beautiful families that have entrusted your fragile hearts to us and allowed us the honour of providing your family with some time to rest, relax and recharge, we thank you.
With our hearts open and laid out for all to see, we ask you for your help.
Please rally your family, friends, colleagues or your kids school community. Work with your sporting, mothers, running, gardening, book or social club to come up with a fun way to raise a few dollars, to make a donation that will help support families of seriously ill children and those who have lost a child.
Mufti days, cake stalls, lolly guessing competitions, school discos, social club drinks, recycling through 'return and earn stations' in ACT , NSW , SA or QLD, donations in lieu of birthday presents or as a memorial gift to honour a loved one's life, fundraising treks and horse riding adventures, memorabilia auctions. These are all examples of thoughtful ways amazing individuals and groups have raised money for Maya's Rest in the past and just a small sample of the endless possibilities available.
We would also gratefully welcome the donation of appropriate building materials and internal fittings that will assist in reducing the cost of the build. If you may be able to assist in this way please contact us via the contact form on the Maya's Rest website.
Gather your group, get creative and have fun. Please share photos of your fundraising efforts with us so we can share them via our social media platforms! To do so tag @mayasrest and use the hashtags #mayasrest #alidascottage on Instagram or tag Maya's Rest on Facebook to give us permission to share photos of your fundraising efforts!
Together we can continue to make a difference.
Thank you - Tash, Mark, Amelia and Maya xxxx
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