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Annual toy and gift drive to honour Susan Roskell


The Susan Roskell Toy and Gift Drive will have special meaning for a Bolwarra Heights family in 2022.

While the event, formerly known as Calamity, is heading into its seventh edition, organiser Todd Sheldon also saw it as a fitting way to honour his mother, who sadly died last year.

Ms Roskell was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer in 2020 – and battled bravely until her passing on 28 October 2021.

Mr Sheldon, wife Penny and son Lachlan then aptly changed the name of the toy and gift drive as a tribute to the much-loved matriarch.

“As a person, mum was always so generous for any good cause that would arrive, helping so many others, even to the point of her own detriment,” he said.

“Thousands and thousands of dollars was spent on charities every year.

“So, calling it the Susan Roskell Memorial Toy and Gift Drive was a no-brainer.

“Being a child in disadvantaged circumstances can have detrimental effects on their mental health and wellbeing, which hinders them from making the most out of life.

“Sometimes a simple gesture of kindness through toys and gifts can be enough to help them cope through their challenges while providing ease to their families and carers knowing that these children can still enjoy beautiful moments in life.

“Growing up, mum worked two and three jobs to make ends meet for my brother and myself.

“It was a hard life.

“It meant, as a child of 12, I looked after my little brother at night while mum worked.

“We were always safe, but I was not afforded a childhood like other kids. 

“We saw things happen to mum that no child should see happen.

“However, mum always powered on.

“As we grew older and had our own children, my mother was always around to help and forever making sure our kids had everything (not that they needed it).”

Lachlan Sheldon and his late grandmother Susan Roskell.

In 2016, a request from Maitland Reading Cinema to support struggling families during the festive season resulted in the Sheldons donating wrapped gifts to a Wishing Tree.

From this, the idea of an annual toy drive was born.

Now, the selfless family is asking the Hunter community to join them in making a difference to a youngster’s life.

Residents can donate new toys and gift vouchers, as well as financial support.

“Since the start, the donations have steadily increased with thousands of items being received,” Mr Sheldon said.

“The goods are then provided to local charities and organisations, including the Farmers Run in 2019 and, most recently, Got Your Back Sista in 2020.

“Our main focus has always been families affected by domestic violence (DV) – and this will always be very important.

“However, in 2022, we will be broadening our support to include those people impacted by mental health.

“We want to help families who have stepped up to take care of children in the event that mum and/or dad are unable to.

“We’ll also be looking at widening our areas of assistance.

“It is heartening to see that with every year, the support from the community and small businesses has grown, which enables us to support the ever-increasing number of families who are seeking help.”

But, it’s not just the Sheldons who are involved.

“We have families who take it upon themselves to organise their own drives to support the annual toy and gift drive, too,” Mr Sheldon said.

“Once again, so many businesses, community and sporting clubs have volunteered to be drop-off points for people wishing to donate new, unwrapped toys and gifts.”


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