Wagga residents will have the chance to meet and support Ryan and Karen Fowler on Friday when they arrive during a Melbourne–Sydney run for a special cause.
The initiative is set to raise funds for the charity Rio’s Legacy, named after the Fowlers’ 17-month-old son, who died in January this year after being diagnosed with arterial vasculopathy disease.
As well, the charity aims to raise awareness and action for more children’s hospices in Australia.
It began when Rio, who is described as being a happy boy who loved cuddles, contracted gastroenteritis, resulting in him spending 40 days in hospital.
Thirty days were in intensive care and his blood pressure shot up to 225/150.
He underwent four major surgeries (including two amputations) and suffered renal failure and heart impairment.
After multiple invasive operations, he was diagnosed with an incurable arterial vasculopathy.
The Fowlers were then given the worst news possible: “your little boy is going to die”.
“He had a very short life – when we realised his diagnosis, it was a short turnaround,” Mrs Fowler said.
With no idea how long they had left with Rio, the family went to stay at Bear Cottage in Manly for four weeks.
It is the only children's hospice in NSW and one of only three in Australia.
“Watching the slow deterioration was agonising,” Mrs Fowler said.
“We need more respites and more hospices to give families a break.”
The Fowlers are now trying to set up more children’s hospices around Australia using Rio’s Legacy as a platform.
“There’s a waiting list for this, but there shouldn’t be,” Mrs Fowler said.
Watching the slow deterioration was agonising.Karen Fowler, mother of Rio Fowler
“Every moment is precious, so the community and government should know that there’s not enough support for parents and children in the most dire situations.
“These places [hospices] can help keep them happy and comfortable to allow family to soak in every moment.
“It’s so priceless, we really want to give these families in the same shoes all the support they can get.”
As part of the campaign to set up more hospices, the inaugural charity challenge is Rio's Run, which began October 1, that will have Ryan run more than 1000 kilometres from Melbourne to Sydney.
Mr Fowler is set to arrive in Wagga around 1–2pm on Friday, October 12.
A barbecue at Wagga Beach will welcome him, his family and support crew.
It will also be a chance for residents to support the cause and donate to the charity.
Kapooka helps out
As part of the fundraising efforts, Maree Stimson and colleagues at Kapooka’s Army Recruit Training Centre have raised about $1300 in the past three months.
“There’s about 20-odd staff who have contribute – we’d bring in cake, morning tea or other baked goods for others to buy,” Ms Stimson said.
“We got hold of Karen [Fowler] and told them what we’d like to do for them.”
Ms Stimson described Mr Fowler’s run as “incredible and amazing”.
"The fundraising has been positive for everyone at the centre as well, so it’s a win-win for everyone,” she said.
- You may support Rio's Legacy by donating at rioslegacy.org.au.
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