By Steph McNicol

CHILDREN First Foundation in Kilmore East celebrated 20 years of providing life-changing medical treatment last month with a VIP lunch and family-friendly entertainment.

Children First celebrated ‘small lives big hope’ for two decades as well as enabling more than 400 children from 32 countries to receive the treatment they needed to survive.

The team of volunteers and staff provide 24 hour, seven day a week support for the children in their care including a range of physiotherapy, allied health services and rehabilitation and recovery programs.

Rotary member Jenny Foster, volunteer Treaisa Rowe and visitor Jessie Fitzpatrick talk about activities at the celebration. ​

The VIP lunch on November 24 included visits from Member for McEwen Rob Mitchell and patrons Bernie and Gerry Lamers, who spoke about their involvement with Children First.

Ms Lamers said it was a pleasure to share her story about getting involved with Children First.

“Over 20 years ago I met the first children that had been brought over from Bosnia by Moira Kelly, after the war. I was very moved when I heard each of their stories and … I held back tears,” she said.

“I instantly felt a need to help but at the time was not able to do so, as Bernie and I were committed heavily to another charity.”

After retiring, Ms Lamers started a Children First auxiliary group to raise money in support of the charity – Labour of Love Auxiliary.

The group spent time making craft items to sell to members of the public in order to support the organisation.

“It took us a while to build up enough stock to hold our stalls. Our group was small to begin with but we were all dedicated and hard workers,” Ms Lamers said.

Over the past five years, the Labour of Love Auxiliary group raised more than $200,000 in support of Children First.

“Unfortunately in 2015, most of our ladies were well in their 80’s and we decided it was time to retire. I am still very proud of the difference we were able to make over so many years, in helping to support the children,” she said.

“It is always so lovely for me to come and visit the children and the friendly staff and volunteers here at the retreat.”

Ms Lamers thanked supporters of Children First for their ‘generosity and commitment’ to the organisation.

“I know you all share the joy and satisfaction of seeing these children return home happy and healthy, as I do,” she said.

Visitors spent the day enjoying food, live music, stalls set up by community groups, hearing about the history of Children First and spending time with the children in care.

For anyone interested in finding out more about Children First and the work they do, visit

Children First Foundation supporter Atom Rahman, foundation deputy chair Don Maloney, Member for McEwen Rob Mitchell and foundation chairman Roger Langley enjoyed the VIP lunch at the celebration. ​