Every year, Westfield Living Centres across Australia and New Zealand each award up to three, $10,000 grants to deserving individuals and their organisations who dedicate their time to positively impact the lives of others.
This year, six Greek Australians have been named among the grant recipients for the Westfield Local Heroes and we couldn’t be prouder.
Here’s a full list of the winners:
Sue-Ellan Vasiliou – Littlelegsfoundation (NSW)
Sue-Ellan Vasiliou and her husband lost their beautiful daughter, Alegra, to brain cancer at the age of six. Every day since then, she’s been doing everything she can to help support other families and is raising funds for brain cancer awareness and research.
She does this through the little legs foundation she set up in memory of Alegra, who was diagnosed with brain cancer days before Christmas in 2016 and passed away 10 months later.
Sue-Ellen tells The Greek Herald that the little legs foundation will use its $10,000 grant to help fund hospital equipment and to support families.
“Having been acknowledged by such a large corporation as Westfield is quite humbling. To be named a 2020 Westfield Hero and recognised for the work we do is an absolute honour. We are grateful to all who voted for me, loved ones and new friends,” Sue-Ellan says.
“I dedicate this award to my hero, my beautiful Alegra. Who I love with all my heart and will forever strive to make a difference in this world for her.
“The $10,000 prize to the little legs foundation will go a long way. It will be used to fund hospital equipment needed for children battling brain cancer and also to help our little friends create special memories with their loved ones.”
Jason Sotiris – Supertees (NSW)
Tradie, Jason Sotiris, is giving sick children a boost with free medical grade superhero garments to
replace their hospital gowns.
Not only do Jason’s Supertees help the children tap into their internal superpowers, but they are carefully designed to make life easier for bedside parents and nurses.
Jason came up with the idea when his baby daughter was seriously ill in Westmead Children’s Hospital with a rare type of cancer. The Supertees are MRI compatible and have side studs to make changing easy and openings for tubes.
Despite working full-time and caring for his family, Jason spent two years designing the garment
and convincing hospitals to accept them.
“There are so many good causes out there and people doing amazing things in the community,” Jason tells The Greek Herald.
“It was truly humbling to be nominated as a Westfield Local Hero and to have the local community show their support by voting and get behind what we’re doing, it’s an amazing feeling.”
Supertees will use its grant to take the volunteer program to the next level.
Margaret Skagias – CaringKids Inc. (NSW)
While working as a social worker, Margaret Skagias recognised the unique contribution of Australian children who care for their parents or siblings. These often unsung heroes may take on housework, shopping, cooking, personal hygiene care, liaising with health professionals and financial matters.
In 2014, Margaret founded volunteer-run CaringKids. She and her team make up toy boxes for young carers so they can feel their contribution and role is honoured and recognised. The toy boxes contain pre-loved toys that are saved from landfill.
Margaret’s nominator says, “Margaret combines passion and compassion to make a difference for children who care for disabled or chronically ill family members.”
For her part, Margaret says she only wants carers of all ages in Australia to be recognised for the
unpaid care they provide.
CaringKids will use its grant to fund endeavours including the provision of 200 toy boxes to special needs siblings and young carers and the rehoming of about 8000 pre-loved donation items.
Pauline Maniskas – Disabled Surfers Association Of Australia Inc Central Coast (NSW)
Pauline Maniskas is passionate about helping people with disabilities enjoy surfing. She is volunteer secretary of the Central Coast branch of the Disabled Surfers Association and has dedicated the past 15 years to helping people experience the restorative effect of the ocean.
Pauline helps organise surfing events, sources donations and visits schools to speak about the value of being inclusive.
She also raises awareness of surfing among disability providers.
Not even breast cancer could keep Pauline away from her volunteering. In fact, her regular swims in the ocean to counter the side effects of treatment made her more determined to help.
“We were thrilled to be nominated in this year’s program and greatly appreciate the support we have received from Westfield and the community,” Pauline tells The Greek Herald.
“This grant will help us reconnect many with the water and continue to make steps towards inclusion.”
Disabled Surfers Association of Australia Central Coast will use the grant to buy a beach wheelchair and other equipment such as rash shirts and surfboards.
Lorraine Lekias – Fostering Hope (Western Australia)
It happens more often than people imagine. Grandparents and others being handed a baby to look after with little warning and not enough time to prepare. That’s where Lorraine Lekias comes in.
She founded the Fostering Hope charity to support kinship and foster carers. Working on the premise that it takes a village to raise a child, Fostering Hope provides material items for children and education for carers.
One area of focus is providing education to carers about childhood trauma and suggestions on how to help newly placed children to settle and feel safe.
“We set out to create a loving and warm community for the foster children. It truly takes a village to raise kids and we have had a community come together to care for the children,” Lorraine, who has 20 years of experience as a foster mum and has five foster children, tells The Greek Herald.
“We want the community to encompass these children and for them to feel love and valued, helping them build strength and resilience, knowing their self-worth and growing in self-love.
“We are humbled to be one of this year’s Westfield Local Hero grant recipients however, Fostering Hope is not about us, we are blessed by having these children in our lives. “
Fostering Hope will use its grant to upgrade its facilities and to fund emergency packs and education.
Angela Christodoulou – Queensland Koala Society Inc (Queensland)
Angela Christodoulou has been known to camp under a tree for three days to rescue a koala and her joey. A co-founder of the Queensland Koala Society, she gives it her all to help protect the south-east Brisbane koala population, which has been displaced by urban sprawl.
Angela has rescued more than 505 koalas over the years and has recruited local volunteers to help.
“We ensure they get medical treatment and care they need until they can be released back into their natural habitat,” Angela says.
Community education is a crucial part of the society’s work. An essential part of community engagement is to invite people to come along whenever the society releases a rescued koala.
“That’s when I get a lot of interest from people wanting to volunteer. Community involvement is vital,” Angela says. “People are surprised by the number of koalas we have in this immediate area.”
Queensland Koala Society will use its grant to build a larger rehabilitation facility.