INVERLOCH’S Kerrie Beauglehall, who has raised almost $1 million for the Royal Children’s Hospital, was thrilled to be a recipient of the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in this year’s Australia Day honours.
For the past 25 years, Kerrie has been a huge supporter of the Royal Children’s Hospital eventually forming the Inverloch Diabetic Unit Auxiliary in 2000.
And her motivation hits close to home, after her daughter Carla was suddenly diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of 11 during the late 1990s.
Since then, Kerrie has been determined to do all she can to fund vital research and equipment for the Royal Children’s Hospital to help treat the disease, and ultimately hopes a cure will be found.
Almost every year she has held her well-known fundraising balls and events, which has seen almost $980k donated to the hospital.
Speaking with the Sentinel-Times last week, Kerrie said she was completely surprised by the OAM award.
“I feel very honoured and very humbled and it’s incredibly exciting,” she said.
“I feel this award also belongs to a lot of my volunteer helpers, and the community of Inverloch that has supported me for the past 25 years to raise this money.
“I’m very proud and excited, not just for myself but our town.”
When her daughter was diagnosed with diabetes, the discovery was a complete shock, as Kerrie believed the disease mainly affected older people.
“Fortunately, our wonderful doctors picked it up really quickly and she went straight to the Royal Children’s Hospital,” she said.
“Within hours of being there, I was handed a syringe and told I have to inject my daughter twice a day for the rest of her life.
“It was very overwhelming as you can imagine, but the hospital was very supportive and wonderful.
“Carla is 36 years old now and uses an insulin pump.
“But she still obviously lives with her diabetes and the ups and downs, it’s a lot of hard work to get it all right and to stay alive basically.”
It was during the family’s time at the Royal Children’s Hospital that Kerrie decided she needed to do something.
“Four months later we held our very first ball down at the Inverloch Hub,” she said.
“We had 213 people come and raised $7500.”
It was then decided that the funds raised would go towards establishing a complication screening program at the Royal Children’s Hospital.
“All diabetic children that attend the Royal Children’s Hospital get checked annually for complications with their eyes, heart and kidneys and there was no funding for that,” she said.
“For the past 25 years we’ve solely funded that as there’s no other funding.”
Thanks to Kerrie’s amazing efforts, the incidence of complications went from 30 per cent to just a mere one per cent.
“What we’re doing is making a huge difference,” she said.
“It means there are thousands of diabetic children that not going to be blind, have heart conditions or amputations because of the money we raised.”
The balls have also become a much-loved community event each year, with the last one held (before COVID) raising $68,000.
“Every year there’s a waiting list and some people have never missed one, so it’s wonderful support,” she said.
Kerrie has also found other ingenious ways to raise money, which included creating a Christmas CD during the early 2000s.
“Early in our fundraising years we had a local band Stiletto Groove supporting us, and they have played music at all of our functions since then,” she said.
“We decided to make a Christmas CD and put the word out to the hospital, and we had 57 diabetic children sing on the CD as a choir.
“We called it ‘Carols for a Cure’ and we made $20k from it.”
The funds have also helped the hospital purchase a new retina camera to perform check-ups on children’s eyes.
“With the money from our high teas we were able to purchase the new camera, and our money has gone into mental health research and other projects on the way,” she said.
“As a community, fundraiser and volunteer we are making a difference, that’s what is nice to know, that our money is making a difference.
“The Royal Children’s Hospital is very strict with their donations and none of the money raised can be spent without my signature.”
Kerrie was also awarded the Madge Tate Service Award from the hospital in 2008.
“It is the highest award that the Royal Children’s Hospital hands out, and only about 30 have been given out in the past 100 years,” she said.
“The award is for dedication and volunteering, but you do it for the kids, not the awards and accolades.”
While a cure for the disease is yet to be seen, Kerrie has no plans to give up and will continue with her work as long as she can, with her motto “One Team, One Goal, Making Sick Kids Better”.
Her daughter Carla also made a touching tribute via social media last week when learning about her mother’s award, stating that she couldn’t be prouder.
Kerrie was also extremely grateful to her family’s support over the years.