Telethon 2020: Generous West Aussies donate millions to our sickest kids

Kate RyanThe West Australian
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VideoTelethon 2020 kicks off.

Even a global pandemic can’t halt the generosity of West Australians, with the public, big business and government all opening their hearts and purses to help sick children.

The State’s biggest annual fundraising event got off to a flying start with $15,419,103 raised by midnight.

The Federal Government chipped in with a total of $4.8 million.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, representing the Prime Minister, presented the money, saying he was proud to be able to make the donation.

“The research and services that Telethon has helped fund over more than 50 years has saved and changed the lives of children in WA, around Australia and the world,” Mr Cormann said.

“It’s been a tough year for many. As the world grapples with a pandemic, health and wellbeing has been front and centre for all of us.

“The Federal Government is very happy to support Telethon because we know every dollar is put to the best possible use to help improve the health and wellbeing of our children.”

Last year the Federal Government initially donated $2.5m, before Prime Minister Scott Morrison pledged a further $1m later in the evening.

Hayley and Mathias Cormann at Telethon 2020.
Camera IconHayley and Mathias Cormann at Telethon 2020. Credit: Ross Swanborough/The West Australian

That was on top of its $13m contribution over 10 years to the Origins project. The biggest study of its kind in Australia, it is a collaboration between the Telethon Kids Institute and Joondalup Health Campus, which will follow 10,000 families over 10 years to study and improve child and adult health.

The State Government is expected to present its cheque at the end of Telethon tonight.

Big business also came to the party, with mining giant BHP pledging $4m, the Stan Perron Charitable Foundation adding $2m and Paul Ramsay Foundation giving $1.3m.

Woolworths donated $200,000, Bankwest pledged $120,000, and Westrac and Perth Airport donated $50,000.

Bazil Zempilas and WA Premier Mark McGowan at Telethon 2020.
Camera IconBazil Zempilas and WA Premier Mark McGowan at Telethon 2020. Credit: Ross Swanborough/The West Australian

School teacher Isaac Thomas showed you don’t have to be rich and powerful to raise money for sick kids. He has helped raise huge amounts for Telethon over the years and this year was no exception, as he donated more than $58,000.

And as it has done in previous years, the Minderoo Foundation matched phone donations for the first few hours of the event.

Last year, WA raised more than $42.5m, pushing Telethon’s combined annual medical funding to almost $350m since its 1968 inception.

That cemented Telethon as one of the biggest, longest-running and most successful charities in the world — as well as the highest donating Telethon per capita on the planet.

Basil Zempilas, perennial Telethon host and new Lord Mayor of Perth, said this year was going to be special.

Kerry Stokes and Christine Simpson Stokes at the Telethon Ball.
Camera IconKerry Stokes and Christine Simpson Stokes at the Telethon Ball. Credit: John Koh/The West Australian

“COVID has focused all of the community to change and Telethon is not immune to that change, but we are excited about the change,” Zempilas said.

“We think we’ve adapted and moved quickly. We’ve made some great innovations.

“This is a chance for us to celebrate West Australian talent like never before.

“I’m excited to see, despite the times that we have been through and despite the current financial situation that we find ourselves in, just how generous WA can be.”

To donate, phone 1300 737 507.

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