Since 1989, the Kollege of Knowledge Kommittee for Kids (the 4 K's) has raised funds to help disadvantaged and special needs children in the Southern Highlands.
Bowral parents Amanda and Aaron Fowler consider them lifesavers. Their 10-year-old daughter Lilah has severe autism and Down syndrome. Caring for Lilah can be particularly challenging, the Fowlers say, but the support and assistance the KKKK has given them has taken a burden off their shoulders.
"One day when our daughter Lilah can speak, we will make sure she comes to each of you to say a big thank you."
Recently, the charity helped the Fowlers fund a much-needed renovation. Lilah spends an hour and a half each day in their spa therapy pool; being in the water, Amanda explained, calms her behaviours.
"We have to work hard at trying to keep her calm in her little world," Amanda said. "If we do that, if she has a routine, she's pretty good - but anything new or unexpected, she doesn't cope with very well."
Placing Lilah into the pool has become more difficult as she has grown. She now weighs 40kg - too heavy for her mother (who has multiple sclerosis) to lift.
Aaron Fowler explained to KKKK founding member Tony Springett OAM that he wanted to build a deck so Lilah could sit down and swing her legs into the pool.
"If we had gone through the NDIS and the government departments," Amanda said, "I would have had to wait a couple of years for somebody to come out and look at the site and do an assessment, then an engineer would have to draw up the plans."
Tony Springett, however, listened to the couple's needs, and agreed that the KKKK would fund the materials.
"We're just so grateful for your support," Aaron wrote. "It's really lifted us! ... With any help from other organisations also comes a mountain of paperwork, so much so that we and families like just give up. But one simple form and having Tony to help us was just so easy - no red tape, and real help!"
"The KKKK were set up to cut through the red tape and get help for families when they need it and exactly what they need," Amanda said. "We're very thankful."
This is the third time the KKKK has helped the Fowlers in the last six years. When Lilah started school, her parents were told she would need a specific wheelchair - costing $6000.
"It was right on Christmas time," Amanda remembered. "We only had a few weeks [before school started]. We hadn't budgeted to buy something [so expensive], and to go through the government channels - where we had gotten equipment in the past - would have taken two or three years."
At that time, Amanda was running the Highland Hamper Company in Springetts Arcade. Tony Springett found out about the Fowlers' plight, and came down to see what he could do. He contacted Lilah's physiotherapist to ask what was needed, and within three days, the order had been placed. The wheelchair came a few days before Lilah started school.
"Thank goodness for the KKKK; they really stepped up and helped us," Amanda said.
Six years ago, the Fowlers were having trouble applying to the government to get nappies for Lilah, who needed changing every hour. There was a four-month waiting list, and requirements seemed to change constantly, Amanda said at the time.
"I tried and tried to get something, and it got to the point where I couldn't even think about it or talk about it anymore," Amanda said.
The KKKK approached the Bowral Amcal Pharmacy, and explained the problem; the pharmacy donated $2000 worth of nappies - four years' worth.
"I got so overwhelmed and emotional," Amanda said. "I'd only mentioned it in passing to somebody, and they had gone to the KKKK. We're so grateful for their help; each time it's come when we have desperately needed it."
The children's charity has raised more than $2.5 million over the last 30 years for the region's special needs and disadvantaged children. They support ASDESI, a support program providing services for families caring for autistic youngsters. They have helped organisations, including Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Shepherd Centre, Childflight, Clown Doctors, and Camp Quality. They have bought wheelchairs, mechanical lifts and speech therapy for those with autism and down syndrome, cochlea implants for the deaf, and equipment for the visually impaired.
"Thank you everyone in the KKKKs," the Fowlers said. "What you have done for us and others is just amazing! Please don't ever stop what you are doing; you give the helping hand that families dealing with autism really need."
For more information about the KKKK, visit: https://www.the4k.com.au/.