The tragic loss for a Warracknabeal family and its community has been the catalyst for a new fund that will support families with ill children requiring distant medical care.
Elli Butuyuyu was a healthy, happy and active Warracknabeal girl who loved to dance, draw, bake and play with her friends. She also asked questions about God and wanted to understand more. But a little over a year ago, the five-year-old came home from school complaining of blurred vision.
Elli’s mum Hanna said she had complained earlier in the week of nausea.
“It was Elli’s first week back to school after the holidays and she seemed to have gastro,” Hanna said.
“She was quite floppy and she felt a bit sick but toward the end of the week she was seeing double,” she said.
Hanna thought Elli might need glasses but Elli’s father, Warracknabeal GP Dr Franklin Butuyuyu was concerned about the combination of symptoms and suggested a trip to Horsham for an MRI.
The MRI results crushed the family with the worst possible news. Elli had an inoperable tumour lodged in her brain. In just a few short weeks, her precious life of boundless joy and love would end.
Elli was immediately rushed to Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital and the Butuyuyus had to leave their children with friends, put their world on hold and take up residence in Ronald McDonald House.
“It was very sudden and everything changed dramatically,” Hanna said.
“It made us realise how much people support people in such a situation,” she said.
“Some people came to help us straight away on the night she was diagnosed and they didn’t leave until the end. Others were bringing food or finding accommodation for our friends and relatives who were there to support us.”
Elli’s passing and the trauma that engulfed her family has prompted the introduction of the Elli Martha fund and a very special sock.
Hanna said their final weeks with Elli made her family aware of the challenges and issues country people faced when their child was sick and needed specialist treatment.
“We had so much amazing support from really precious and amazing people who wanted to give so much of themselves,” she said.
“They helped us find accommodation for our extended family and made sure our other children were being cared for and could attend school.
“But we realise not everyone will have such amazing support and that’s why we are launching the Elli Martha fund.
“The fund supports the region’s families who have to travel to bigger cities for specialist treatment for their sick child.”
The fund is open to donations but is be centred around the sale of socks designed in memory of Elli. The rainbow coloured socks feature Elli’s signature and a butterfly emblem to signify her affection for the winged insects.
The Elli Martha socks pack is sold with Elli’s special cookie recipe included for $10 a pair and all profits go directly to the fund.
“Elli loved drawing and she loved colours,” Hanna said.
“Butterflies were her favourite creature and she also loved baking cookies so this is a very special pack.
“Buying socks will provide a warm memory of Elli.”
The Elli Martha fund was launched at Warracknabeal Kindergarten by Dr Franklin at the end of August. More than 300 pairs of socks were sold at the launch.
Hanna has encouraged everyone to give generously to help strengthen the community and help families facing such challenges.
“The theme of the fund raiser is that it’s good that we have each other,” Hanna said.
“I would love to see families get together with their children and bake, have a meal together and appreciate each other and acknowledge that it’s good to have each other.
“I would love to see people come together so they can create their own little fundraisers.
“All of that can then accumulate to something that can make a huge difference.”
The socks are available for purchase at Yarriambiack Medical Centre and Rural Northwest Health campuses. Other outlets will be announced as they are confirmed.