Little Wings a lifesaver

Tumut’s Kylie Sanderson with son Damian Dean and the trampoline donated by GIVIT and Little Wings.

Little Wings is a not-for profit organisation that flies children in need of specialist medical treatment between regional Australia and Sydney, and Tumut mum Kylie Sanderson’s appreciation of it cannot be measured.

Her seven-year-old son Damian Dean was diagnosed with retinoblastoma (a rare type of eye cancer) meaning he had to be taken to Sydney for treatment.

“When we were there, our outreach nurse, who looks after us and other families from regional towns told us about Little Wings, because we’d have to keep coming back for regular treatment, so it would be a big financial burden on families to travel 600km every month or however often we had to go back,” Ms Sanderson said.

Little Wings was able to pick Damian and his mum up at Tumut Airport.

“This saved a lot of financial hardship and time,” she said.

“It was a really good service to be told about; so it was amazing.”

Damian was a bit nervous the first couple of times he flew, but has since become a seasoned and relaxed passenger.

Ms Sanderson does not know how the family would have coped without Little Wings.

“It would have been impossible,” she said.

“We would not have been able to get the treatment he needed, and he may not be here anymore. It was 100 per cent life-saving treatment. If it wasn’t for them I would have to leave my other kids (she has three children) and stay in Sydney while he has his treatment.”

To say she is grateful to Little Wings and that they came along at the right time would be an understatement.

“At a time of our lives when everything just turned upside down, it was just a little bit of easing, and hope to know that we’re going to get there; we’ve got support,” she said. 

“They were 100 per cent, no questions asked; they were glad to help; they couldn’t wait to come and get kids and do it for them.”

Damian had treatment for a tumour in his eye, which if not removed, could have spread to his brain.

Ms Sanderson said Damian is now “doing good”.

“We still have to go back every three months for check-ups, but during Covid we haven’t been able to get back, because we don’t want to risk him getting Covid, because he is vulnerable, so we’ve got to be very careful with him,” she said.

“As soon as everything settles down we’re on the list to go straight back.”

As Little Wings is a not-for-profit organization, receiving no government funding, the organization relies heavily on community support. In order to assist Damian and his family, St George Bank have been big supporters, quietly in the background funding missions and helping ease the journey for regional families in need.

Ross Miller, General Manager of St.George Bank, said Little Wings is a charity that is largely based on volunteers and aero-medical operations are costly . 

“Our partnership means Little Wings can continue to operate and undertake their remarkable work, taking to the skies and providing safe transport for children and their families, at no cost,” he said.

Little Wings Chief Executive Clare Pearson said “We at Little Wings are so proud to be part of the journey for these families. We operate on a daily basic from Bankstown Aerodrome with the sole purpose of helping regional families caring for a seriously ill child. So knowing that we have positively impacted Damian and his family is a trumph for us.

“Little Wings is committed for the duration of the treatment journey for regional families; we are in it for the long haul, because when we support families, communities thrive,” Ms Pearson said. “But we cannot do it alone and we are so grateful to have the support and partnership of St George Bank, that allows us to support families in need without hesitation. We wish Damian and his family nothing but health and happiness for the future.”