Majura Valley Bush Festival donates $10,000 to Friends of Brain Injured Children
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Majura Valley Bush Festival donates $10,000 to Friends of Brain Injured Children

It's another example of one Canberra group helping out another - in this case some of our most vulnerable children and their amazing parents.

The inaugural Majura Valley Bush Festival, held in April, attracted 8000 people to the property of Majura Road rural lessee Paul Keir - and raised $10,000 for local Canberra group Friends of Brain Injured Children.

Paul Dowden and his three-year-old son Sebastian enjoy the horses on the Majura Road property Springfield on Friday.

Paul Dowden and his three-year-old son Sebastian enjoy the horses on the Majura Road property Springfield on Friday.

Photo: Rohan Thomson

The event's organiser, Sherry McArdle-English, handed over the cheque at the Keir property Springfield on Friday.

"We're now talking with the ACT Government about the future of the Majura Valley Bush Festival and if we can continue, the Friends of Brain Injured Children will be our long-term charity which we will support," Ms McArdle-English said.

Ron Cruikshank, with his 12-year-old daughter Suzanna. He says the work of the Friends of Brain Injured Children has been "remarkable''.

Ron Cruikshank, with his 12-year-old daughter Suzanna. He says the work of the Friends of Brain Injured Children has been "remarkable''.

Photo: Rohan Thomson
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One of the parents belonging to the group, Paul Dowden, whose three-year-old son Sebastian has the neurological disorder Angelman​ Syndrome, was moved by that promise.

"It's amazing to hear that. Just fantastic," he said.

The Majura Valley Bush Festival was entirely volunteer-run and the organisers are hoping for some government backing for it to continue, especially given it had been so popular.

"The feedback we got was, 'Please do it again', 'This is the first time I've given my child a farm experience', 'Please keep it authentic'. And we're going to do all that," Ms McArdle-English said.

Friends of Brain Injured Children, celebrating the gift of $10,000 raised by the Majura Valley Festival at Paul Keir's farm Springfield on Majura Road.

Friends of Brain Injured Children, celebrating the gift of $10,000 raised by the Majura Valley Festival at Paul Keir's farm Springfield on Majura Road.

Photo: Rohan Thomson

Friends of Brain Injured Children was chosen as the charity, not only because of its work, but because money raised stayed in Canberra to help local families.

Now running for 25 years in Canberra, the community-based organisation Friends of Brain Injured Children has about 55 families on its books, helping them with a host of services, not least connecting with therapists but even down to organising a Christmas or Easter party for the children.

Paul Keir watches on as Ron and Suzanna Cruikshank and  Sebastian, 3, and Paul Dowden gather for the handing over of $10,000 to the Friends of Brain Injured Children.

Paul Keir watches on as Ron and Suzanna Cruikshank and Sebastian, 3, and Paul Dowden gather for the handing over of $10,000 to the Friends of Brain Injured Children.

Photo: Rohan Thomson

Past president Sean McCandlers, whose daughter Caitlin, 16, has cerebral palsy, said the group organised interstate specialists to visit Canberra and for individual families to received one-on-one therapy. It ran on donations, fundraising and the occasional government grant and its whole infrastructure was reliant on the continuing existence of SHOUT (Canberra Self Help Organisations United Together).

"This $10,000 will go towards providing our children with therapy, including that which is not covered by the NDIS or Medicare, but nonetheless, has proved to be extremely effective," he said.

Mr McCandlers said Chinese traditional therapy had helped his own daughter walk and talk.

Ron and Rhonda Cruikshank, of Burra, have seven children, the youngest 12-year-old twins, Joanna and Suzanna. Young Suzanna has cerebral palsy and suffered brain damage as the result of a complication related to twin pregnancies.

Mr Cruikshank said the work of the Friends of Brain Injured Children had been "remarkable".

"For many, many years they have helped us, linking us into different therapies and with other families," he said.

"Just being able to talk to other families with children not dissimilar to your own."

Mr Dowden said a major focus for the group would be accessing technology that helped their children to communicate.

"Because non-verbal does not mean unable to communicate," he said.

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Paul Keir was thrilled all the hard work of the volunteers setting up the festival had yielded such a wonderful result for Friends of Brain Injured Children.

"To help, even a little bit, makes you feel good. To see them benefit, it's just something close to my heart," he said.

Megan Doherty is a reporter for The Canberra Times

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