Spotlight on TLC for Kids
TLC for Kids is a national children's charity helping sick kids & their families cope with the challenges of everyday life with illness, unconditionally.
Come along the journey and get to know how this truly inspiring charity came to be, what their 'everyday' looks like and how they already have and continue to improve the lives of children living with illness and their families all around Australia.
Introducing Founder Tim Conolan and his beautiful charity TLC for Kids!
Why and how did your charity first start? What are some of the things you set out to achieve?
I founded the charity in 1998 when I learned that children were falling through the gaps of existing services. Before TLC for Kids, many children were unable to receive support due to their illness type, age, waiting lists, or whether they had received prior assistance. This was affecting sufferers of rare disorders, mental health problems, accidents, burns, and chronic illness. It was even affecting sufferers of illnesses and disabilities that seemed to have ample support, but whose 'need' - often a practical need - didn't fit the types of support on offer.
Our services are deliberately established with no waiting lists or restrictive criteria, and a focus on filling in gaps for those who may miss out.
It all started with the Rapid TLC Service, providing immediate practical, emotional and financial relief upon referral. Requests might include a surprise birthday package, a family day out, or covering household, transport, accommodation or bereavement costs. This style of support was inspired by a young boy by the name of Francis, whom I helped in the final days of his battle with cancer. After using breathing techniques to help Francis take the full breaths he longed for, I realised that these children and families needed more than sympathy - they needed real practical help and motivation, to help them see what is good about life during their worst and toughest moments.
What makes your charity so unique/stand out from the rest?
TLC for Kids is unique in that our services are unconditional. We don't discriminate based on illness, disability, or condition; location; age; citizenship; or whether a child has already received assistance elsewhere.
We are a catch-all charity to ensure that every sick child has access to the help they need when it's needed. Families don't have to jump through hoops - the need is identified by their healthcare professional, who refers the case to us. We action our Rapid TLC Requests within 24 - 48 hours of receiving the Request.
Our services are all one-of-a-kind. Our Distraction Boxes are the leading therapeutic support toolboxes in the country, while our TLC for Kids Ambulance is the first of its kind in Australia.
We run very leanly, so our team is quite small but multitalented! We have seven full-time staff members, as well as support from a small handful of volunteers, the majority of whom have been recipients of TLC in the past. While we love our lunchtime chats, during the day we are usually busy working on providing our vital services, or fundraising to support the provision of those services! Our activities are guided by a lot of planning, as well as guidance from our Board of Directors.
We work in great collaboration with our network of healthcare professionals, who identify children in need and refer them for our Rapid TLC and TLC Ambulance Services. For our TLC Ambulance, we work closely with Ambulance Victoria to provide the safest transport possible, with volunteer paramedics driving our repurposed ambulance.
We are also super grateful for the support of partners such as Toll, who provide free transport for our Rapid TLC and Distraction Box items, often to rural and remote areas! 3AW has also been a fantastic supporter over the years.
What are some of the most triumphant moments in your charity's history?
Becoming a charity! It was such a proud moment for myself and my partner, Ana, when we finally became a registered charity in 1998.
Introducing the Distraction Box Program. It was a fantastic milestone in 2005 to be able to launch our Distraction Box Program, a box of distraction and therapeutic items that is now found in over 405 clinical rooms throughout Australia and New Zealand. We were so grateful for pivotal support from Neil Mitchell AO, who helped get the program off the ground.
20 years. In 2018, we celebrated 20 years of TLC for Kids alongside some of our nearest and dearest supporters and TLC recipients. Such a proud achievement.
Over a million impacts per year. In 2019, our services officially hit the one million mark in terms of impacts per year! A very humbling milestone that reminds us of what we are here for.
TLC Ambulance - Launching the TLC Ambulance in 2019 was absolutely incredible. It was a fantastic journey of around two years from the point where bereaved TLC Mum and paramedic Jemima Tawse approached us with the idea. During that time, we partnered with Ambulance Victoria and designed a fun and engaging wrap for the vehicle, and received overwhelming support from the public through a 3AW radio appeal.
What motivates you to keep doing what you're doing? Does it ever get tough?
The Requests that come in each and every day are our motivation to keep going. They're such a humbling reminder of the multitude of problems facing sick kids and their families, particularly with things that families of healthy children might take for granted. Or, something that is a challenge for a healthy family is doubly as challenging as them.
It definitely gets tough. We get families who are just depleted, with nowhere else to turn. Or, children who are facing the most horrible circumstances and are under DHHS care. Of course, it's particularly tough when a family is bereaved, or the child is palliative. The team here have access to support when they need it, particularly with the TLC Ambulance which is designed for end-of-life situations.
How could a platform like charityBay assist in achieving your charity's goals?
charityBay is a great platform to bring in much-needed funds that we can direct to our programs. We don't receive government funding, and our programs often don't qualify for grants, so we really do rely on the generosity of donors.
Not only that, but it's also an excellent opportunity to get the word out there and help more people understand the gaps in the support network, and how TLC for Kids fills that gap.
We can't wait to expand the capacity of the TLC Ambulance and provide more trips for children in palliative care. At the moment, there are plans to introduce more vehicles onto the road, starting with splitting Victoria into West and East.
We are also continually striving to expand our Rapid TLC Program to more referrers around the country, based on need. We are also in discussions about expanding the Distraction Box Program internationally, aside from New Zealand, and what that might look like.
For the future of our charity, we are also exploring different fundraising models that will finally (after 20+ years!) allow us to focus our internal activities on bringing more awareness to our cause.
From charityBay, we want to send our deepest and most sincere thanks to Tim and the whole team at TLC for Kids, for the fantastic and selfless work you do within our community. Your devotion to children and their families that need a little tender loving care is truly inspiring and gives us every bit of motivation to do all we can to assist. We are so pleased charityBay has an opportunity to make a difference to the lives of the children and their families you support day-in-day-out.
But now it’s over to you, our readers! If you love what you’ve read about TLC for Kids and want to support their beautiful cause, click the link below to start auctioning off your items and help generate much-needed funds.