2019 Westfield Local Heroes Check-In

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2019 Westfield Local Heroes Check-In

The Westfield Local Heroes program is in its third year in 2020, recognising and promoting community role models whose work creates a positive impact on our communities.

Westfield Local Heroes are nominated and voted for by their communities, with the three top finalists per Westfield centre each awarded a $10,000 grant for their affiliated organisation. Vote now for your 2020 Westfield Local Heroes.

We checked in with our 2019 winners, to see how the Westfield Local Heroes grant has made an impact on their community organisation.

Gavin volunteers for a cause close to his heart

Gavin Shaw is an invaluable volunteer with the EB Research Foundation, which raises funds for treatments and a cure for epidermolysis bullosa (EB). EB is a genetic illness causes the skin to break and blister, leading to pain, disfigurement and gaping wounds.

On top of his full-time work, Gavin spends many hours a week supporting the Foundation and increasing awareness in the community. His dedication to this charity saw him named one of the 2019 Westfield Local Heroes for Airport West.

“I am really grateful to Westfield Airport West for the Local Heroes grant. Local Heroes is a fantastic initiative which I am honored to be a beneficiary for the EB Research Foundation,” Gavin said.

“Like many, COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the Foundation with all fundraising events cancelled or postponed until next year. This has left a massive hole in fundraising.

“The EB Research Foundation managed to hold their Tough Tilly Day event in January 2020. Tilly, a local girl born with Epidermolysis Bullosa, is a frequent visitor to Westfield Airport West, you will often see her there with her mum or aunty.  

"The Westfield Local Heroes grant was to be used to hold an EB Research Foundation information seminar to inform researchers, doctors, scientists of the charity and how they can apply for grants. Current Government restrictions forced us to re-think how the grant is best used in today’s environment. Instead they are using the grant to produce a professional promotional clip which will raise needed awareness and hopefully encourage donations.

“In these trying times EB Research Foundation is still committed to fund vital life-saving treatments to cure EB. Their mission is laser focused and their responsibility to fund research is more important than ever.”

Niketa helps everyone shoot goals

Niketa Loftus founded the Craigieburn Thunders Club after volunteering to coach an under-9 netball team in 2014. The family-like club has 13 teams and provides a safe, inclusive environment with the main purpose to provide disadvantaged children and youth a safe haven to play the game they love.

Niketa is a working mother of four who coaches, mentors and raises funds for the club.

“In the last 12 months, Craigieburn Thunders Netball team have been extremely busy playing not only at Craigieburn Netball Association but Parkville Netball Association also, and growing from five to 13 teams,” Niketa said.

“The $10,000 Westfield Local Heroes grant has been heaven sent for our club. We have been able to support another 45 players joining our club, taking our total to 155. We have been able to welcome two new coaches, update our training equipment and support families with game fees and uniforms for new players.

“We have also been able to assist our ‘most at risk’ youth players with an acceleration sports performance training program, which consisted of an elite training plan and gave them access to a personalised sports dietitian. 

With COVID-19 having stopped netball for majority of 2020, we will be setting our focus on ensuring our players are engaged to come back and take to the court, preparing them for training and game days, as well as supporting them on an individual level. 

Mary helps her students create meaningful connections

Mary Chiodo has been at Copperfield College for 32 years and is currently the Kings Park Campus Principal. Copperfield College is a large school with 68 nationalities and low scores for socio-educational advantage.

Over the past eight years, Mary has built up close partnerships with several organisations. As a result, the students have meaningful opportunities to interact with business and community leaders, as well as prospective employers and training organisations.

“2020 started off with such a positive feel and I was able to engage a great group of six Year 12 VCAL to be involved in one of the initiatives linked to the Westfield Local Heroes grant. This group of young people planned a Business Breakfast to raise awareness and funds for fellow 2019 Westfield Local Heroes winner, Gavin Shaw from the EB Research Foundation,” Mary said.

“Unfortunately, with the move to remote teaching and learning, we had to abandon the Business Breakfast. The students have been super persistent and have responded with agility to all of the changes. They have decided that they still want to raise awareness for EB and will be making a short video.

“I still plan to work with the community organisations that were nominated in the original application. The plans I had in place will be revised and as a College, we are very keen to get student input into those for 2021.

“The initial ideas of student leadership, community connections and employment mentors still resonate with our students. We may also need to tap into some wellbeing and mental health initiatives as appropriate.”

Your community has nominated, and voting is now open for the 2020 Westfield Local Heroes program. Vote now.

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