Julie Gemmell has returned to the Illawarra as the new hands-on general manager of the KidzWish Foundation.
Ms Gemmell started the new role on Monday and within two days was at Unanderra packing bags of toilet paper to support KidzWish families during the coronavirus crisis..
Ms Gemmell was the chief executive of BHI Architects and Chief Operating Officer at Soto before moving to Canberra when she heard about a new program for children on the autism spectrum that could help one of her sons.
In Canberra she was the chief financial officer for a diagnostic imaging company called the Canberra Imaging Group. She also ran her own consultancy business .specialising in growth strategies, performance and improvement as well as public relations.
But despite all that experience and skill Ms Gemmell considers her role as a parent as the most important qualification for her new role at KidzWish.
She applied for the general manager position after moving back to Illawarra and resettling at Minnamurra with her family.
"I have two boys. One with autism and the other with ADHD," she said.
Ms Gemmell said she is well versed on what it is like to have children with special needs. And understands the importance of therapy and support for children with a sickness or disability.
"When the job at KidzWish was advertised as vacant I thought why not have a crack at applying for it".
Ms Gemmell said she was constantly advocating for her own children and advocating for other children and families with particular needs seemed like a natural extension.
"I have a business background and I think doing this kind of work is me. I bring business philosophies to school settings and all settings I am in".
Ms Gemmell is aware of recent events at the KidzWish Foundation and the departure of founder Chris Beaven.
She said she wants to re-invigorate the brand, vision and focus of the Illawarra charity for many children and their families.
Ms Gemmell said there are many exciting things happening at KidzWish.
"There is the therapy arm which is forging ahead. And there are big plans for the new KidzWish site at Flinders".
Ms Gemmell said KidzWish was moving into a real growth and development phase.
She wants all existing programs to continue and be expanded where needed. She will also look at new areas of need.
She said the charity was looking at present issues and concerns for families during COVID-19 and what it can do to help address some of the needs it has created.
And it is hoped the annual KidzWish Ball and Christmas Party for thousands of children will still be able to proceed after the coronavirus crisis.
Depending on what happens during the next six months they may not be able to be staged in the traditional format this year but the plan is to continue with tradition.
"At the moment we are still planning for the ball and christmas party to occur," she said.
"But I have asked the team to consider different scenarios based on the restrictions that might be in place at that time. We are hoping for the big bash as usual but if that is not possible we will customise it to what we can do at that time.".
Ms Gemmell said in coming back to the Illawarra the KidzWish role was the perfect job for her because she can be hands on and be her authentic self as a parent and manager of a charity that helps so many children and their families.
"But I don't pretend to know it all. I am always the first to say I need help," she said.
Ms Gemmell said she is looking forward to not only promoting KidzWish and what it stands for, she wants to re-initiate fundraising to help it the charity help many more families in the region.
She said that can't be done without the help of many generous individuals and businesses in the community who have been such great supporters of KidzWish over the years.
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