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Standing together to fight muscle disorders

JOHN Paul II Catholic Primary School recently hosted a Duchenne Awareness Fundraiser to help raise support for those living with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD).

The disease – which involves muscular degeneration and is, most often, fatal – holds personal meaning for staff and students at the primary school, who were forced to say goodbye to late student Rhys Donaldson who died from the condition in April 2014.

“Rhys was a delightful boy and a much-loved student at John Paul II Catholic School – he always had a cheeky grin on his face and was well liked by his class,” principal Fran Bearman said.

“When teacher’s assistant Sallee Zanardi mentioned at a staff function that she would like to shave her head for charity, we thought it would be nice to have a fundraiser for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy in honour of Rhys.”

On Monday 7 September, approximately 200 teachers, students and guests gathered to share in a barbecue and witness Ms Zanardi shave her head in the hopes of raising a minimum of $2000.

Ms Zanardi said she had always wanted to shave her head for a charity and that it had “felt like a good time.”

“We wanted to celebrate what would have been Rhys’ 12th birthday, as well as raise much needed awareness of DMD and the beautiful children and families living with it every day,” she said.

“I was so lucky to be one of Rhys’ teachers’ assistants for three-and-a-half years and he gave me much more than I could ever have given him.

“This was my way of thanking him.”

Ms Zanardi said shaving her head was an easy decision and that she wanted to help raise money to find a cure.

“These families go through so much watching their little boys fight for life every single day,” she said.

“When I looked in the mirror for the first time afterwards I felt very proud and simply smiled – I did this for both Rhys and myself.”

The event also included a range of activities from Life Be In It, the Police and Community Youth Groups (PCYC), Tasmania Police, face painting by Guilford Young College students, raffle tickets and sumo suit wrestling.

Ms Bearman said the school community managed to raise a total of $3,582.55 to donate toward the Duchennne Foundation.

“This was beyond our greatest expectations and we couldn’t have been more proud of everyone’s effort and support,” she said.

“It is important for us to remember Rhys and support the Donaldson family in whatever way we can, as they worked tirelessly to support their children and have now lost two sons to DMD.

“As a school community we want to remember Rhys and support the work of the Duchenne Foundation.”

For more information about the Duchenne Foundation, visit www.duchennefoundation.org.au.