Upgrades, books lift children’s spirits

Working together to uplift the Maitland Cottage Childrens Orthopaedic hospital, back from left, are JP Feyt, of Dekro paints; Greg Bertish, founder of The Little Optimist Trust; George Lemon, of the Lion Match Company; Peter Burghart, of Teck Flooring; David Hall,of Polyflor, and Paul de Jager, of Teck Flooring. In front are Carla Geyser, founder of Blue Sky Society Trust; hospital chairperson Julie Scott; Nicole Vicieros and Hayleen du Preez, both from Cherubs.

The Maitland Cottage Children’s Orthopaedic Hospital is sporting a fresh new look, thanks to the efforts of some good Samaritans.

The hospital has new floors, curtains and books together with a mural outside, courtesy of The Little Optimist Trust, the Blue Sky Society Trust and corporate sponsors.

For the founder of The Little Optimist Trust, Greg Bertish, the hospital make-over was something close to his heart. He knows what it’s like to spend a long time in hospital.

In 2002, at the age of 31, he had open-heart surgery after a tropical bacteria attacked his aortic heart valve. It took him a year of rehab to recover and then in 2006 the bacteria returned and Mr Bertish beat it again after another surgery, re-infections and more than 100 days in hospital.

In 2016 he sailed in a little Optimist dinghy for 200km off Cape Town – representing the 200 days he had spent in hospital – to raise money for Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital’s ICU.

He hopes the improvements to Maitland Cottage will offer some cheer and encouragement to its young patients.

The Little Optimist, a children’s book written by Mr Bertish and given to all the children at the hospital, is about not giving up on your goals just because you happen to be different in some way.

“I was a catalyst to bring everyone together, and obviously bring the books in her because we donated books last year and every kid that comes to this hospital gets a free book and Blue Sky got in touch with me to find out how they can help,” said Mr Bertish.

Blue Sky and The Little Optimist trusts then decided the hospital could use some improvements. Carley Geyser, founder of Blue Sky Society Trust, said it had been “incredible” how the various corporate sponsors had “come out of the woodwork” to do the work.

The Little Optimist was illustrated by cartoonist Chip Snaddon who also did the mural outside the hospital’s boys’ ward. It reflects images and messages from the book.

“We took one of the images of the book and stretched it over a 40 metre wall,” said Mr Snaddon.

Julie Scott, the hospital’s chairperson, said the children would all identify with the mural because they all had copies of Mr Bertish’s book.

“It adds some fun into their day and with the flooring it is incredible because in the past if you stood to long in one place you can sink,” said Ms Scott.

The Little Optimist Trust would now like to hold movie and pizza nights at hospitals and continue to help raise funds for young hospital patients from poor communities.

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