Article from 2022/2023 Impact of Giving Annual Report
When Graeme and Penny Bentley decided to leave a Gift in their Will to the RCH Foundation, they weren’t just adding to a more than 50 year history of giving – they were making a commitment to creating a brighter future for children and young people.
The couple’s long standing connection with the RCH started in 1967 when Penny began supporting a social and fundraising group of the hospital called the Pied Pipers. When Penny started dating Graeme a few years later, she was quick to get him involved. “We both became full members later that year,” recalled Graeme.
In 1970, a year after the couple formally joined the group, funds raised by the Pied Pipers were put towards the purchase of a heart-lung bypass machine. They didn’t know it at the time, but 10 years later, Graeme and Penny’s own daughter would need a machine just like that.
Melissa was born in 1981 after what Graeme describes as “much deliberation” due to Penny’s own medical issues. Whilst the pregnancy went well, Melissa’s paediatrician identified deformed thumbs and a heart murmur once she was born.
At four days old, Melissa was sent to the RCH for an X-ray and angiogram which diagnosed Fallot’s Tetralogy, a serious heart defect. A few weeks later, she had a cardiac shunt procedure performed by acclaimed RCH cardiac surgeon, Mr Roger Mee AO.
The surgery itself was a stop-gap measure, giving Melissa’s body time to grow until she was strong enough to undergo a full repair, which occurred a year and a half later.
Melissa continued to undergo surgeries and procedures for her heart and her hands throughout her childhood and into her 20s, including a heart valve replacement at 26 years old – Melissa’s final cardiac surgery to date.
As Melissa grew, Graeme and Penny’s support of the Pied Pipers continued. Over the years, they dedicated every Good Friday to rattling collection tins at traffic lights and organised countless events, all to raise money for the hospital.
While they have now taken a step back as active members, their passion for the RCH has remained and recently, they decided to leave a Gift in their Will to the RCH Foundation as a way of continuing their support.
“Having supported the RCH since 1967, then having been recognised with RCH Honorary Life Governorships in 1977, Honorary Life Memberships of the Pied Pipers, and finally an Australia Day Community Service Award in 2011, you could say that the RCH is in our blood.
“More than that, the RCH allowed us to have a future we didn’t think we’d have. The care and clinical expertise gave us a family, and in turn grandchildren, that might never have been,” they said.
The couple are also excited by recent technological advancements in cardiac care at the RCH, and the possibility of contributing to life changing research for patients with cardiac conditions, like Melissa.
“So much has changed since Melissa was a patient at the RCH. We want to be part of this progress. And through our Gift in Will, we can be,” they added.