18/11/2010 - 00:00

Sweet sounds for kids in need

18/11/2010 - 00:00

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IT was in 1977, when he lived in England and had a young son who was ill, that Rob Johnson first became associated with children’s charity Radio Lollipop.

IT was in 1977, when he lived in England and had a young son who was ill, that Rob Johnson first became associated with children’s charity Radio Lollipop.

Now the state’s police minister, Mr Johnson recalls sitting in a ward at Queen Mary’s Hospital for Children when the first Radio Lollipop station was launched.

“I remember it as though it was yesterday. He (my son) sort of bucked up when Radio Lollipop was on the air and I could see what the other kids were doing,” Mr Johnson told WA Business News.

“There was a great deal of excitement, joy and interest from the children, which is what Radio Lollipop is all about.”

From that experience, Mr Johnson recognised the profound impact the organisation’s entertainment had on sick kids, and from that moment he became involved with Radio Lollipop.

“I saw the benefits and I thought, ‘I really like this’,” he said.

Starting out in an unofficial capacity, Mr Johnson raised funds for the organisation during his time as mayor of the London borough of Sutton, and spent a year raising funds for children’s charities as a high priority.

“I did various things. I wrote to every school child in my London borough asking them to give up the price of a Mars bar for children in need,” Mr Johnson said.

“This was just before Christmas in 1985 and I said I would be coming around on my horse to collect the money.

“The metropolitan police wanted to be involved, so I had two mounted police officers accompany me in my mayoral clothes with my chain on. I rode to every school, there were 43, and I covered 34 miles in two days. We raised the equivalent of $15,000.”

Mr Johnson organised unusual fundraising missions during this time; he also organised charity variety shows featuring stars including Cliff Richard, from which he raised $25,000 for Radio Lollipop.

The ties with the organisation continued when the Johnson family moved to Australia in 1988, as Radio Lollipop had operated in Perth since 1985.

Mr Johnson has been chairman of the Australian arm of the charity (which celebrated its 25th anniversary this month) for 16 years, overseeing the launch of the organisation in the eastern states and contributing to the launch in New Zealand and the US; and there are hopes of taking Radio Lollipop to South Africa.

“I just head the board, the people who do the work are the volunteers,” he said.

“I sometimes feel guilty that I don’t devote enough time to Lollipop. I feel I am not doing as much as I would love to be doing. While they want me, I am honoured to be their chairman.”

It is evident Mr Johnson is proud of the organisation’s structure, which the board and volunteers have worked hard to maintain.

“Every cent we raise throughout the whole of Australia goes back to the children,” he said.

“The only person paid in Australia is on a part-time basis.’’

The goal of the charity throughout its 25 years in Australia has been to brighten the daily lives of children in hospitals; but the goals for broadening its capacity are constantly extended.

“The aim we set our minds on in the last couple of years is to reach every sick child in hospital in WA, and we have now extended that to Australia,” Mr Johnson said.

 

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