Step up for sick kids

The Smith family of Ipswich are taking on the Super Steps Challenge in honour of Thea Smith, whose eye surgery was less scary thanks to the Starlight Children’s Foundation. Picutres: CONTRIBUTED

This May, lace up your joggers and make a big difference in sick kids’ lives.

The Starlight Children’s Foundation has launched the Super Steps Challenge, a new fundraising initiative to deliver happiness to nearly 18,000 sick kids through Starlight’s vital hospital services.

Ipswich parents Maree and Jon Smith know intimately the impact Captain Starlight has on children and their families.

Captain Starlight was there from Thea Smith’s first admission to hospital.

“Thea had just been diagnosed with Retinoblastoma,” Mrs Smith said.

“We were in a bit of a whirlwind, we didn’t know much about what happens in the hospital.

“We were in the waiting room, her dad and I were emotional messes.”

Captain Starlight was ready for Thea, just two years old at the time, and turned a daunting experience into a reassuring one.

“They just sat on the floor, and within five minutes not only was Thea giggling, they were playing games and they had their ukulele out… Jon and I also found ourselves smiling and laughing along too,” Mrs Smith said.

“It completely changed the entire experience in that waiting room from that very first moment.

“They stayed with us throughout that entire journey.”

This first admission was a significant one.

Thea underwent surgery to remove her eye.

Captain Starlight was by Thea’s side every step of the way.

“The captains came through again that whole day, even followed her through until she went under general anaesthetic,” Mrs Smith said.

Thea, now five, looks forward to her hospital appointments because the Starlight Foundation has transformed every visit into a fun and happy experience.

“Every single admission or every single time we go into hospital, without fail they’re always there,” she said.

Now, the family is taking on the Super Steps challenge to give back to the charity which gave them so much.

From 1 May to 31 May, participants are aiming to walk or run 10,000 steps each day and help raise $700,000.

“We just feel it’s our duty to give back and make sure that everyone is aware of how incredible they are, and aware of what a big impact it makes for sick kids like our girl,” Mrs Smith said.

“We’ve created a team called Team Thea.

“We’re doing it in her honour, we’re sharing her story, and we’re raising as much money as we can so not only can she continue to receive the incredible benefits of that, but for every other kid who’s ever in the same position can receive the same support that we had.

“What they do is incredible and it’s the most worthy cause.”

Donate to Team Thea at or take on the Super Steps Challenge for yourself by visiting