Vital Croydon respite service for children with disabilities needs community support

14-May-2013 12:00 AM

Meagan Gaffney says it was a huge shock when her 4-year-old son Ollie was diagnosed with autism.

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Like hundreds of parents supported by not-for-profit aged and disability services organisation Villa Maria, the single mother-of-three found it difficult to cope, particularly as Ollie – now aged 11 – needs to be with her constantly.

Meagan, of Lower Templestowe, says receiving support from Villa Maria’s Croydon Respite House enables her to cope.  Villa Maria’s flexible respite services and four children’s respite houses in Croydon, Kew, Lilydale and Wheeler’s Hill provide families with vital support and a much-needed break from their important role, and a safe, friendly and fun environment for their children. 

When Ollie is in respite care, particularly overnight, Meagan says she and her two other sons can have a break from the usual chaos at home and get a proper night’s sleep, which Meagan so desperately needs.

“For the boys, it’s the break from Ollie and the intensity of having him in the house.  The noise is constant.  Ollie likes to have a lot of sensory stimulation so he’ll have the television going, the radio, his iPad.  The energy in the house is always charged, which can make the boys frustrated at times.”

Importantly, Meagan says Ollie loves going to the respite house.

“It gives me peace of mind because I know he’s having a good time there.  I feel there’s a personal connection with Ollie and the staff – it’s like he’s there with an extended family.  

Without respite, Meagan sadly admits she would probably have been forced to give up care of Ollie.

 “Villa Maria has saved my life,” Meagan says.  “The services are a lifeline.  Not just the Croydon Respite House, but the flexible respite services.  I just couldn’t do it without them.” 

Thanks to generous donations from Villa Maria supporters, work has recently begun on the rebuilding of the Croydon Respite House.  The new, purpose-built home will cater for children’s specialised needs in a larger and more accessible environment.

It’s a welcome move for the 25 families whose children access the vital service, and for the dedicated staff members who ensure the respite house is a home away from home.

However, an empty building is of limited use without everything that makes it a home.   And now Villa Maria is calling for more support to raise funds to cover the costs of furnishing and equipping the home; everything from tea and coffee mugs, to costly kitchen and specialised household equipment.

If you would like to contribute and help families like Meagan and Ollie, please visit or call 9855 7600.

Interviews and photograph opportunities are available upon request.

Media enquiries: call Cassie Zlonzak on (03) 9837 6629 or 0406 382 560.

About Villa Maria      

Villa Maria is a values–based, not-for-profit organisation providing quality services and life enhancing opportunities for older people and children and adults with a disability, their families and carers.

Established in 1907 as the Catholic Braille Writers Association, Villa Maria has grown to become one of Victoria’s largest not-for-profit providers of disability, education and senior services with more than 60 programs supporting 5,000 people across the state and southern New South Wales.

Every day of the year, 1,100 staff and 300+ volunteers respond to the unique needs of the people and families we support with openness, innovation, creativity and flexibility.


Media contact

Cassie Zlonzak
Communications Adviser

Telephone: 03 9837 6629

Fax: 03 9837 6668

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About us

Villa Maria is a not-for-profit, values-based organisation providing quality services and life enhancing opportunities for older people and children and adults with a disability, their families and carers.

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