Monday, January 23, 2023


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

Breaking Barriers To Education

Back to school was made brighter for survivors of domestic violence, foster parents and their children last week, with the generosity of individuals and local businesses providing the essentials to start the school year off with a smile.

Families affiliated with local domestic violence support organisation Broken Ballerina Inc. were treated to a private shopping experience at Rebel Sport last Friday morning, where a generous couple from the Whitsundays joined the families to pay for school shoes, bags and drink bottles. The couple also gave grocery vouchers to the families.

Officeworks filled the children’s book list orders free of charge and Jules and Pete Thompson from Broken Ballerina delivered the book list boxes to the families. Previously, Mount Pleasant Shopping Centre also donated $1,500 worth of gift cards to be used towards the purchase of school uniforms, as well as coffee vouchers for the parents.

Domestic violence has a serious impact on children and families, with those parents who flee a dangerous situation often left stranded trying to pick up the pieces. Not only is the physical and mental trauma scarring, but the financial burden can become unbearable to cope with.

Broken Ballerina Inc. help domestic violence survivors and their families immediately after escaping from a dangerous situation. Often, they assist with emergency accommodation and care packs to help a parent who has been left with nothing.

When it comes to back-to-school, a time that falls straight after Christmas, the financial outlay can be difficult for a single parent starting from scratch.

Local Whitsundays couple Dr Allan Cook and his wife Pam Cook knew that while families are often gifted assistance at Christmas, the rest of the year is forgotten, with back-to-school being one of the most financially stressful times for parents.

Dr Cook said he used to support Anglicare, which was founded by psychologist John Langford. John passed around a year ago and the couple wanted to ensure they supported an organisation making a difference in the lives of disadvantaged locals.

Pam said she discovered Broken Ballerina and after some time following what Jules did for the community, Pam knew she wanted to support the not-for-profit organisation.

“I knew they had enough goodies for Christmas, I thought back-to-school support would be more beneficial in helping these families,” Pam said.

“I suffered at the hands of domestic violence for more than 30 years.

“My sons never had anything new, we had nothing,” Pam added.

“I finally left when the doctor said my ex-husband would kill me if I didn’t leave.

“I’m thankful I met a kind man like Allan, we’ve been together 15 years this week which is wonderful.

“We want to help others since we are in a position to do so, it means a lot to me to be able to help women who have been in similar situations to what I faced during my first marriage.”

Dr Cook said for years the couple donated to many charities, including overseas charities helping children in need, but after many large charities were exposed for using funds inappropriately, he said the couple now focus on charities who make a difference locally.

“We know with Broken Ballerina that every dollar we donate will be used locally,” he said.

The generosity left parents and foster parents in awe as it made the school year easier to face. The grins on the children’s faces were unforgettable, as children aged from prep to teenagers relished the opportunity to shop for brand new items instead of the hand-me-downs many had become accustomed to throughout their lives.

Rebel Sport Customer Service Manager Luke Taylor said after hearing Broken Ballerina’s story he thought it would be a great idea for the children and their families to have an intimate shopping experience before the store opened to the public.

“We had our staff here from 8am to 9am so the focus could be solely on these families,” Luke said.

“We also donated gift bags as a thank you from Rebel for shopping with us, which has a drink bottle and some games for the kids like a hacky sack and some other items.

“There are opportunities for us to support other groups with private shopping experiences for interested organisations,” Luke added.

After shopping at Rebel Sport, Jules headed to Officeworks to collect the back-to-school boxes from store manager, Scott Marlow.

“We’re happy to help Broken Ballerina clients with their book lists again this year, some of the families have three or four kids and we’ve helped 18 children this year,” Scott said.

“Education is one of our key focuses and if we can help these children go to school with everything they need it puts them in the right stead to fit in and achieve academically to make bigger things happen for them.

“We also help the Smith Family throughout the year to assist local children with their school needs. Our back-to-school appeal helps us to fundraise each year to help local children. We hope to sponsor 18 disadvantaged students this year with funds to help them with school supplies, uniforms and school excursions.”

Office works store manager Scott Marlow (left) donated 18 school lists of stationary for clients of Jules and Pete Thompson (centre and right) from Broken Ballerina Inc. Photo credit: Amanda Wright

Pam cook (left) and Jules Thompson (right) help local families with a back-to-school shopping experience at Rebel Sport. Photo credit: Amanda Wright

Rebel Sport provided a private shopping experience for clients of Broken Ballerina to shop for school supplies. Photo credits: Amanda Wright

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