Stephanie Freeman is our 2010 Premmie Hero Award Winner.
Stephanie was born in 1996 at 31 weeks gestation. She weighed just over 1kg. Stephanie and her identical twin sister were immediately rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Mater Mothers’ Hospital in Brisbane. Stephanie was experiencing breathing difficulties and required ventilation. However, over the following weeks she survived and thrived and was finally allowed home six weeks after her birth.
From the age of 12 months until 5 years of age Stephanie suffered from numerous hospital admissions due to breathing difficulties and allergies. During this time she was desperately underweight and always looked unwell. Finally at aged 5, two ENT (ear, nose and throat) operations helped her to overcome her problems and since that time she has never looked back. From that time on she has taken every opportunity to enjoy life, be involved in numerous sports and to help other community members.
Stephanie is now aged nearly 14 and is an athletic, healthy teenager. In 2007 aged 11, Stephanie decided she needed to do something to help other premature babies. She signed up to fundraise for the Mater Mothers’ Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. The unit which helped her and her twin sister so much in their first weeks of life. She went to visit the unit and looking at the premature babies made Stephanie aware of just how small and fragile she had been when she was first born. It was an eye opener for her to see all the machinery connected to these tiny babies helping to keep them alive.
Since that day Stephanie has worked over 100 hours annually to fundraise for the unit. Without corporate contacts her fundraising has been through an enormous amount of time and effort.
Stephanie initiated, organised and coordinated a sponsored swim. Stephanie gained the support of the Albany Creek Swim Club who participated in this event. The Albany Creek Masters Swim Club was so impressed at all of her hard work that they volunteered to also participate in the sponsored swim. She has gained the support and sporting memorabilia for raffles or auction from six Olympic swimmers Libby Trickett, Stephanie Rice, Jessica Schipper, Bronte Barratt, Leith Brodie, Kylie Palmer and World Swimming gold medalist Trent Grimsey. She has also gained the support of the swimming organisation ‘Swimming Queensland’. Swimming Queensland was so impressed at all her fundraising that they donated a framed print signed by 19 of Australia’s top swimmers. Stephanie organised for the print to be auctioned off at one of the premier fundraising events in Brisbane. Stephanie has coordinated and organised raffle tickets to be sold over the week long State Swimming Championships at the Sleeman Aquatic Centre in Chandler. She not only spent numerous hours selling tickets herself but organised other swim club members to work alongside her. Stephanie has also organised and run numerous stalls selling Mater Little Miracle Merchandise at local shopping centres and sporting venues. Mater little Miracle Merchandise is soft toy dogs, pens, keyrings etc which have the Mater Hospital logo on them. She has gained the support of the local Eatons Hill Primary School which held a free dress day and the school donated half of the money raised to her fundraising. She has also collected donations from numerous sporting events and local businesses, organised and run Australia Day BBQs, raffles and also participated in a sponsored triathlon. To date Stephanie has raised $15,000 for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Stephanie has also highlighted and promoted the work carried out by the Neonatal Intensive care unit. She has highlighted the need for fundraising to be carried out for the hospital. This has been through numerous newspaper and magazine articles and web site information. The Mater Mothers’ Hospital acknowledged her dedication to her fundraising and her promotion of the hospital. They awarded her a Mater Star Award in 2008 and 2009, the Mater Fundraising Challenge Spirit Award 2009 and the Mater Little Miracles Award 2010.
Stephanie’s efforts have also extended to help the parents and siblings of premature and sick babies cared for at the Mater Mothers’ Hospital. She involved the local community to collect items needed for Ronald McDonald House in South Brisbane. Ronald McDonald House is a home away from home for families who do not live in Brisbane but they are able to stay at the House while their baby is requiring hospital treatment. She was highly successful collecting a vast amount of much needed items such as bathroom items and toiletries, kitchen items and food, new toys and books.
Through all of Stephanie’s efforts she ensures that everyone associated with the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit is assisted. Her fundraising is used to assist the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit through equipment bought for the Unit and for research and hospital projects. The public has been made aware of the need for fundraising to be carried out and encouraged to participate. The parents and siblings of the premature babies are also assisted through the donation of a vast amount of items to ensure their stay at Ronald McDonald House is made as comfortable and as homely as possible.
She was the premature baby who is now helping other premature babies and their families. Her strength and determination in her efforts to help other premature babies and their families, is the same strength and determination she showed when she was first born.
Stephanie is a State level swimmer and is also involved in athletics, cross country running and tennis. She is in Grade 10 at school, 12 months ahead of her peers. She is involved in numerous community and environmental voluntary work. Her story hopefully is an inspiration to other parents who are struggling with the difficulties associated with having a premature baby. The difficulties she endured during the first five years of her life are behind her and she shows that a difficult start to life is no barrier to what a person can achieve.
Congratulations Stephanie and thank you!
Stephanie has won a $500 RedBalloon gift certificate, movie tickets to the value of $75, and she will receive a uniquely designed trophy & framed certificate.