The Special Playgroup Giving Sick Kids A Germ-Free Place To Play And Learn
The group was started by an Adelaide mother who wanted a place for her daughter, who suffers leukemia, to be able to learn and socialise.
The Lion Hearts Learning playgroup is set up like a pre-school, with qualified teachers and staff offering sick children a safe, germ-free environment to play and learn - while giving parents a few hours of respite from care.
Jolyn Phillipps and Matt Townsend's daughter Codee-Jo, 4, was diagnosed with leukemia two years ago. Unable to go to standard childcare centres because of her compromised immune system, they feared their daughter was missing out on education and the chance to make friends.
"You just start thinking, she needs to get to kindy, childcare, where's her social skills coming from? Early education, she wasn't getting any of that," Townsend told 10 News First on Thursday.
"She would just be in hospital, or isolated at home," said Phillipps.
"Now she has her own social group, her own friends."
The three-hour long sessions currently run twice a week at Aberfoyle Park, in Adelaide's south, but demand for the centre is growing.
The Cancer Council estimate that that about 750 children are diagnosed with cancer each year in Australia - and leukaemia is the most common type.
Undergoing treatment takes its toll on the body - and can lower a child's immunity. This means children like Codee-Jo can't attend regular childcare groups, because the risk of getting sick is too high.
Lion Heart Learning staff are now fundraising to try and expand the service across more days, and into new suburbs.
"We're hoping to start a Western/Northern branch very soon," Jolyn told 10 News First.
"We need a venue, resources and money."
The service is free for parents, and Lion Hearts Learning relies on donations to keep it's doors open. Phillipps is hoping to raise $140,000 to keep the southern branch operating and establish another centre in Adelaide's north.
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Details to donate can be found on the Lion Hearts Learning Facebook page.
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