Behind The Wish - Lucy

Meet Lucy Hutchinson - an outstanding Make-A-Wish volunteer of 24 years.

Lucy was one of three people who rolled up their sleeves in 1990 to start the Cairns Branch of Make-A-Wish.

Behind The Wish is our series of inspirational reads diving into the everyday superheroes involved in creating life-changing wishes.


Stepping back for health reasons

I'm 75 and I have a very full life. I've had a kidney transplant and had to stop with Make-A-Wish (in 2016) when I was going on to dialysis.

I'm a post-polio sufferer as well. So, I keep myself as well as I can with those things going on, which happens to people.

I do my yoga and pilates and I have a magnificent home. My husband and I did it up, it was a renovator’s nightmare. But it's a Queenslander with a beautiful garden around it.

I've got two great children. Benjamin who's 51 and Georgina is going to be 50 this year.

I was born with polycystic kidney disease.

It's a genetic illness and I knew I would need a transplant one day. I was getting very tired, which is what happens when you don't have a healthy kidney.

And funny enough I was still running fitness classes and falls prevention class as well.

But I had to start pulling back on a number of things and then unfortunately, Make-A-Wish was one of them.

I was very involved in Make-A-Wish. Spending a lot of time doing whatever I had to do for Make-A-Wish and was happy to do it.

I had my kidney transplant about eight years ago in Brisbane. But I was on dialysis before that.


'It was often the Joe and Lucy Show'

Make-A-Wish was such a big part of my life.

I was part of a founding group that started Make-A-Wish Cairns with Bob Fowler and Heather Dutton so it was often just the three of us doing what we had to do. Fundraising as well as all the wishes so we were very much involved in the branch. I would say nearly 25 years I was with the branch.

I remember there was a lady who came up from Make-A-Wish Melbourne to talk about Make-A-Wish. Bob Fowler, who had a financial group, heard her speak and he thought it would be a good idea to get for Cairns to get on board.

I had been involved in fundraising and lots of other charity work. And he contacted me and said ‘Look, Luce we need someone with some energy, do you think you'd like to come along’ and that's how it all happened.

Bob (pictured with Lucy) was the original person involved in getting Make-A-Wish started in Cairns.

There were about three of us in the Branch. And so, we got involved in doing wishes. And a couple of years later, we had a couple of more people on board.

Then I decided we had to try and raise some money. So, we had Make-A-Wish balls three years in a row, which was huge.

Both my husband and I were in business in Cairns, and back in the late 80s it was a smaller place and we had a lot of influential friends which we were fortunate to have.

I went around to some of these friends and said ‘look, this is what I want to do, will you come on board’ and basically the CEOs or what have you of different companies – they were mainly blokes – said ‘God, Luce I’ll do it for you’.

We had our first Make-A-Wish Ball and it was extremely successful and out of that, in the first or second ball, we had Joe Vella come along, and he eventually became President.

He came to the ball because he was our insurance broker.

And he said, ‘Well, you've got me, I'm going to be involved’ and Joe's been there ever since. Often it was the Joe and Lucy show, it was often just the two of us trying to keep it going so it was quite hard times. But we did it.

I had my own fitness business.

And I was also the Far North Queensland training instructor back in the 80's. If people wanted to start teaching aerobics and basic fitness, they had to do it through me.

And so that's what my business was, but also we owned a tourist business (Tiger Moths), which was where we got to know a lot of other people.

We did scenic fights. And my husband was a pilot and I was running the business side of it. So we got to know a lot of people in the tourism industry, including at the time the manager of Cathay Pacific.

He was here in Cairns and we became good mates. And he was one of the first people I got on board for my Make-A-Wish ball.


Cars and computers

I remember some of the wishes.

Joe Vella (pictured below) came with me, as we always did, to one home visit. It was a little girl. I think she was only about five and she wanted a computer.

She also had older brothers and sisters and a single mum.

I was thinking what would a five-year-old child want with a computer? It’s a little ridiculous. You have to ascertain that they really do want a computer.

But this child absolutely wanted a computer because she had been exposed to computers in the hospital, where she was being treated.

When we went and gave the computer to her and some specialist disks that she wanted, and I realised I had been a bit condescending, about a five year old wanting a computer.

So I said ‘what are you gonna do with this disc? She just did a big sigh, rolled her eyes and said ‘you just stick it in’. She knew exactly what she was going to do with that.

There's probably two other wishes that stand out. And the first would have to be a little boy who really wanted to go to Bathurst.

He was car crazy and his father was obviously involved.

Make-A-Wish organised for him and his father to go down to Bathurst.

And he was sitting there in the stairs and got to meet the race drivers and got a set of gloves from whoever was the champion at the time. Everybody pulled out all stops.

Anyway, he's sitting up there and then the next minute, he's got tears going down his eyes and he just turned around to his dad and his dad said ‘are you OK mate’ and he said, ‘I can't believe how happy I am. Can you smell, can you smell it?’


Lucy the pig brightens up little girl's life

The other was a beautiful girl from Port Douglas who was a champion equestrian rider and dancer and very active but she became seriously ill.

She loved animals and her wish was to have a miniature Vietnamese pig.

And it was a massive effort to get council permission to get the neighbours to say it would be all right to have a pig next door.

And then finally we had to source this pig, which we did. It was bought up from Melbourne. I picked it up from the airport.

It had a ring in its nose. I had to keep feeding it otherwise it would squawk and squawk in our bathroom.

The next day we took this precious little thing up to our beautiful wish child and in the meantime, did a hunt around to find an appropriate pen that we could put the pig in.

And it had to have a cover because we have extreme heat so we went to a pet shop and the guy in the pet shop - this is classic story it happened 100 times over - said I think I've got the right cover for that one. And it was a huge doghouse. And it went straight to this wish child free of charge.

He delivered it to her home.

And then you have to train the little pig to make sure it doesn't chew through wires, the electrical wires inside the house because the pig is going to come in and see the little girl.

And of course piggies have food everywhere so they don’t like their areas being cleaned up, so it would squeal.

The pig would come inside in the morning but very quickly learned not to touch any of the wires and things and it just understood this child, it was so moving you had to be in tears.

The pig would stroke this child’s arm and hand and just put its little schnoz on the side of the lounge so she could scratch it behind the ear.

Eventually, it would sleep on the floor, mum would put this rug down for the pig. Well in time, I said to the wish child ‘you have to give her a name darling’ and she looked up to me with big eyes. ‘Can I call it Lucy?’ So, it was called Lucy.

You heart just explodes.

You just know that you're being put here to do something important and this is why you're alive and you're breathing, it’s a chance to make your stamp in the world.

I'm not any kind of a hero at all. I promise you.

It is just feeling the right kind of emotions, caring and giving.

And it meant so much to this mother because she had this beautiful child and she was going to lose her precious child.

So it was so important but anyway, the Vietnamese pig grew and grew and grew and it was huge.

So, it didn’t remain a miniature pig at all.

And by the time it was 12 months old, this darling girl was very frail. But she understood the pig would have to go to a nearby farm that she knew very well because that's where her horse was.

And so the pig was taken up to its new home and the owners there made a big fuss because it was going to turn one-year-old.

They organised a huge, big birthday cake for the pig. And then it's little snout and everything else went in on the just gobbled up the cake.

But the smile on this child's face, you can’t ever imagine how beautiful it was. A couple of weeks later the little girl wasn't here anymore. That one stays with me, of course. The pig is still up on the farm.

The only way you can do a job or task like that is to look at it as the support we gave to the child and family was so valuable.

And by doing that I reached out to the community and they came on board.

The neighbours came on board, the council came on board. The man with the doghouse from the pet shop, he came on board.

People were bringing over their extra scraps for the pig, they all loved little Lucy the pig.

And they all loved this child. We’re not alone in these journeys.

We need to understand that we do have to reach out to people.

I suppose I did a job well and then there was another wish to be done.

Otherwise, if you hang on to it for too long, you simply can't do the next wish.


Flying the Make-A-Wish flag for 25 years

I have got so much back from Make-A-Wish.

It’s enough to fulfil a child's fantasy, in this case get Lucy the pig.

It was something the mother would never have been able to afford or make happen.

Because we had to go through so many hoops.

We send children to swim with the dolphins, and all the logistics of getting children on and off planes.

The accommodation, making sure it is appropriate.

And sometimes we got notes of thanks back from the family but that wasn't what it was about, it was just doing it if we could do it.

Of course, we ran these balls which was also brought the community together which was fantastic fun.

There were so many wishes that were fantastic but Nemo was special.

This boy just wanted to meet and see Nemo for the first time.

We really made a big fuss of this one because we wanted the whole community involved.

So we got absolutely everybody on board including the town and the local hotels and said welcome to this little boy and we told him ‘you're going to see Nemo, he is waiting for you’ and all that sort of thing.

There were lights set up along the roadway.

The police decided that they would they actually be involved. So this little fella went to a police station in Cairns and these guys all dressed up in their full battle outfits (pictured).

He was part of the cavalcade of police sirens going on and off down the main street down to The Esplanade.

A helicopter was there waiting to take him and his family to Green Island. Then the boat took him out and they actually found Nemo.

We got the word out and we got helicopter rides, the people that are involved with Green Island, boats and the divers.

It was a real community effort. It’s very important for the children. It's very important for the parents.

But it's very important for communities to stop for a minute and just recognise what they do have. And most people have got children and they think ‘oh my God, if that was my child’.

I did do a few talks around Make-A-Wish to get the word out there. Football clubs, different ones who invited me to be at their lunches and things.

And I just basically bring up the fact that there were sick children through no fault of their own, and talked about their families and what what we do at Make-A-Wish.

And I would say ‘we can't do it without community support, because without money we can’t make these wishes happen’.

We never went and knocked on doors to find our wish kids. It was children who came through the social workers, their doctors and medicos.

These wishes came true and we were able to make them work.

In the early days, most things were run by volunteers. I think there might have been one or two coordinators in Melbourne, and maybe one in Brisbane, who were part time paid staff but really it wasn't a big organisation.

And, of course, the other thing about Make-A-Wish in Cairns is the Great Barrier Reef. We hosted so many children coming from all over the world to the Great Barrier Reef.

They came from all parts. Mainly America but Japan, France and all over the world. And they were big journeys.

There's a lot involved behind the scenes.

And the people of the Cairns Branch are still doing that. I really salute them.

I'm happy to talk about Make-A-Wish. I'm always happy to promote it.

I'm not able to do it anymore, emotionally or physically, but for 25 years I was involved so perhaps I've done my bit.

Lucy proudly volunteered between 1991 and 2016