Article from 2022/2023 Impact of Giving Annual Report
If you speak to anyone who knew the late Phyllis Brown, or Phyl as she was more affectionately known, you will likely hear them describe her as passionate, kind, everyone’s Gran, and like a warm hug.
Before she passed away in January 2023, Phyl was also known as the President of Heart to Heart Auxiliary, and the longest serving volunteer through the RCH’s Volunteer Program. Phyl’s involvement with the RCH began in 1979 when she signed up to be a volunteer. Her daughter Diane thought that it might suit her given her great love of children. Phyl had also recently lost her niece to neuroblastoma, so wanted to make a difference to other children like her.
As a hospital volunteer, she worked in the creche, supported Child Life Therapists, then known as play specialists, in the orthopaedic ward, and even spent time as an educational hospital guide for school groups. She also became one of the infamous splint ladies, a group of volunteers who create the small splints used to keep patients’ arms steady and straight when they need IV drips.
“Phyl was passionate about everything – the hospital, her family, her grandkids, her great grandkids. The hospital became so much a part of who she was… it was her thing,” said Kiley Kavanaugh, Manager of the RCH’s Volunteer Program.
In 1989, Phyl took on an additional role in support of the RCH, becoming a founding member of Heart to Heart Auxiliary. The Auxiliary was formed by two of Phyl’s fellow RCH Volunteers, Pam Burch and Judy Lundy, after they were approached by Dr John Wilkinson, the then Director of Cardiology. He suggested they establish an Auxiliary to support cardiac patients.
In 2004, Phyl became President of Heart to Heart. Raising more than $385,000 since 1989, the Auxiliary has supported vital projects and initiatives across the hospital, including the purchase of a heart lung bypass machine, a defibrillator monitor and an oxygen analyser.
“It meant the world to Gran to raise money for the hospital. In the early days she did shopping tours and worked in the Auxiliaries Gift Shop. She would also do stalls at the hospital, as well as at the local shops near her house,” said Phyl’s granddaughter Lisa.
In 2005, Phyl was recognised by the Auxiliaries as a Living Treasure, and in 2013 she received the Madge Tate Service Award.
“I remember the day she received the Madge Tate Service Award. She had no words, which was never a flaw for Gran – she could talk anyone’s ear off. That itself probably showed just how much it meant to her,” said Lisa.
For those around her, Phyl’s passion for the hospital was second to none.
“Phyl devoted the later part of her life to the hospital, and it was something she thoroughly enjoyed. After she lost Ian, her late husband, she adopted this cause to fill her life. I found her quite an inspiration,” said Jo Scully, Treasurer of Heart to Heart Auxiliary.
But for Phyl’s family, it was what she got out of volunteering that meant the most to them. “Gran made many lifelong friends during her time at the hospital who were there to support one another throughout various life stages and share in many memorable moments,” said Lisa. In a 2020 interview with the RCH, Phyl herself reflected on her time supporting the hospital.
“I think my proudest achievement is the work I do as President of Heart to Heart Auxiliary. I’ve met many families over the years, who really appreciate you being a good listener and being someone they can open up to. Although I’m very proud that our stalls and raffles raise important funds for the cardiac unit, I think being there for families is what I’m most proud of.”