No more blistererd feet after Figtree shade sail gift

Renae Burton, Bob Kotic, Grant Burton, Glen Payne and Ruth Kilah check out the new shade sail over the  softfall area  at Figtree Primary School. Picture: GREG ELLIS

Renae Burton, Bob Kotic, Grant Burton, Glen Payne and Ruth Kilah check out the new shade sail over the softfall area at Figtree Primary School. Picture: GREG ELLIS

Mercury Series - Making A Difference

Every morning on his way to work, Illawarra Credit Union chief executive Bob Kotic stops off in Victoria Street, Wollongong for his morning coffee.

One morning, the coffee conversation he had with Glen Payne, of Espresso Mobile Cafe, touched Mr Kotic's heart so much he just had to do something.

Each morning, Mr Payne provides a caffeine hit in Victoria Street to people on their way to work, but during the day he also visits other locations such as Figtree Primary School.

One morning recently, he told Mr Kotic about a special needs student who had sustained blistered feet in the school playground because he didn't realise how hot the surface was.

Mr Payne said the school could not afford to shade the area and wondered if there was anything Illawarra Credit Union could do to help.

"I came to the school and a couple of the teachers were talking about the young fellow that burnt his feet ... and I thought of Bob straight away," he said.

"Bob said he would take it on board and take it to a committee and that is how it started."

Mr Kotic spoke to those responsible for the marketing and promotional budget and as a result was able to provide the school with a $10,000 shade sail.

"I spoke to my marketing team and they found something in the budget and we decided we could help," he said.

"There was no budget for this and they had to let go of something they had in their plan for us to sponsor this. So it was really a great team effort."

The new red sail over the playground will benefit all students at the Figtree Primary School but particularly the three Banksia support classes.

This week, Mr Kotic and Mr Payne visited to celebrate the outcome with parents, teachers and students who all wanted to say thank you.

No-one had heard of softfall areas getting too hot to stand on but as soon as the school found out there was a problem, it took action to prevent it happening again.

Teacher Ruth Kilah said having a safer area for the children in the support classes to play had made a huge difference to the children and teachers.

"It is attractive, it is safe and it keeps the softfall area cool," she said. "In appreciation, we have made a small plaque the children have made themselves. All their hand prints are on there to say thank you very much."

Mr Kotic said he could not think of a nicer gift and would proudly hang the plaque in the public lounge at the Illawarra Credit Union's Young Street headquarters.

Grant's mother, Renae Burton, did not blame anyone for what happened. She was just grateful for everything everyone had done.

"I thought this was fantastic when I found out about it," she said. "The children want to be out there all the time. It is a great playground. So having a bit of shade is great for kids because a lot of these kids are non verbal and can't actually tell you that their feet are hurting. We are very happy."

Mrs Burton said her son had hydrocephalus that involved having some fluid around the brain and a moderate developmental delay. He also had tight hamstrings so did not move as quickly as most children.

School principal Paul Brightwell said it was a fantastic act of generosity by Mr Kotic and his team.

He said the softfall area had been at the school for a couple of years without incident.

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