Hobart couple's lifetime of giving
Husband and wife team Paul and Lyn Shegog have clocked up decades as Make-A-Wish volunteers in an extraordinary life of giving after tragically losing both their children to illness.
Meet Paul and Lyn
After the deaths of their two teenage children, no one would begrudge Paul and Lyn Shegog closing their door on the world outside.
But Paul and Lyn did the exact opposite. They opened their door and their hearts as Make-A-Wish volunteers. And the Tasmanian husband-and-wife are still going.
“All of a sudden you want the world to stop but it keeps going,” Paul said.
“You have just got to hold on.”
Paul and Lyn held on to Make-A-Wish and in return Make-A-Wish have held onto the Shegogs. Lynn started in 1989 and Paul – even though he was casually helping Lyn with her branch duties – officially joined in 2005.
In 2014 Paul and Lyn’s tireless efforts for Make-A-Wish, Wish kids and Wish families were recognised when they were inducted into the Make-A-Wish Hall of Fame.
In memory of Emma and Brett
The delight of Paul and Lyn’s daughter Emma’s birth was followed a couple of years later by the safe arrival of Brett. However both children had the rare disease mitochondrial myopathy. Emma very sadly died in 2003, aged 18 and Brett tragically also passed away the next year, aged 16
Lyn said weeks after Emma was born they knew something was wrong but doctors were not able to give a diagnosis.
“They finally diagnosed her with mitochondrial myopathy which is rare and affects their mitochondrial cells. She was going to get weaker as she got older,” she said.
“With Emma she had lots of seizures. It was the same diagnosis for Brett. He lost muscle … they both relied on wheelchairs as they got older.
“We pretty much treated them as normal children and got them to achieve as much as we could in the time we had them.”
Both children had wishes granted by Make-A-Wish to go to the Gold Coast theme parks.
“I have vivid memories of the theme parks and the rides we could go on,” Paul said.
“It was a precious time. The look on their faces. It was a great time for the family, the kids being happy and enjoying life.”
Hospital visits plant seed
The fire to become immersed in Make-A-Wish was lit when Paul and Lyn spent so much time in hospital visiting their own children.
“We would see kids with cystic fibrosis or kids with cancer,” Lyn said. “I met parents with kids at the Royal Children’s and one family had just had their son diagnosed but when we saw them again he had passed away.
“So we had a real sense of what it was like to have a child in hospital going through treatment
“To lose our own, I guess for me it was just … I needed something, I wanted to do something,”
Lyn said Make-A-Wish gave her and Paul something to focus on.
“We thought ‘wow we really need to be here for these other families’,” she said.
“We could help families see whether the outcome was good or bad you've got do this (go through Make-A-Wish) and you will have the memories to hang on. That’s what Paul and I had from our wishes, the memories to hang onto.”
Bringing the 'magic'
Acts of kindness
Paul and Lyn both have wishes from their time as volunteers that standout in their minds.
Paul pauses and his voice trembles momentarily as he remembers a little Tasmanian boy who wanted to go to Hamilton Island but because he relapsed the trip had to be cancelled. The boy passed soon after.
Lyn recalls an autistic girl who wanted to be a fairy and another family who had two sick little girls. This family flew off on an interstate wish but because they didn’t have a bathtub in their house, Lyn wanted to do something more. The local community rallied and when they returned the family had a bathtub.
“Sometimes it’s just that little act of kindness that means so much,” Lyn said.
Both Lyn and Paul refer to the “magic” of Make-A-Wish. The smiles on children’s faces and the joy written all over parents’ faces.
“Being involved in a wish is to bring some joy into kids lives,” Paul said.
“It is a tough world out there and if we can bring some joy and magic into a kid’s life that’s the reward we get back.”
Paul and Lyn are universally loved within their Hobart branch and the wider Make-A-Wish community. When told about some of the kind things people have said about them, Paul shyly offered “it was nice to hear”.
“We are just ourselves,” he said. “We treat people the way they treat us. We don’t think we are unique, we are just Lyn and Paul.”
Paul and Lyn Shegog’s children Emma and Brett have been remembered in a plant they named. The salvia was named ‘Ember’s Wish’ and through Plants Management Australia (PMA), the plant helps raise funds for Make-A-Wish’s during the salvia flowering season, which started recently. For the season PMA have released a new saliva called ‘Kisses and Wishes’. PMA have contributed over $50,000 to Make-A-Wish.
What others had to say about Lyn and Paul Shegog
“Lyn Shegog is a constant source of inspiration to me and thousands of people in my audiences. Lyn’s generosity, in the face of unimaginable circumstances, takes a huge spirit, enormous emotional intelligence, buckets of compassion, empathy, dedication, commitment and a truck load of fun and love!” – Robyn Moore
“Lyn is not only one of the pillars of our branch but of Make-A-Wish Australia. Apart from inspiring us from being a wish parent, Lyn and husband Paul are always at fundraising events, helping to set up, run the event and pack down. This is always done with a smile on her face and a kind word for other volunteers.” – Janine Arnold
“Lyn and her husband Paul are a lovely, caring, hard-working asset to our branch and I value their friendship.” – Linda Bray
“They always put their hands up first. The bottom line is what they have been through losing their two children, our hearts go out to them and every now and then we touch on their history and it brings them and us to tears.” -Allana Wilson
We thought ‘wow we really need to be here for these other families’Lyn Shegog
The Wish Journey
How a wish comes to life
Make-A-Wish volunteers visit each child to capture their greatest wish, getting to the heart of what kids truly want and why. This profound insight is part of what makes Make-A-Wish unique, giving children full creative control and helping to shape their entire Wish Journey.
Back at Make-A-Wish HQ, we partner with families, volunteers and medical teams to design the ultimate wish experience - and start rallying our partners and supporters to help make it happen.
In the lead up to the wish, we take each child on a journey designed to build excitement and provide a welcome distraction from medical treatment. Anticipation can be incredibly powerful, helping to calm, distract and inspire sick kids at a time they need it most.
When the moment finally arrives, children get to experience their greatest wish come true - it's everything they've imagined and more. Pinch yourself, and don't forget to take a breath and enjoy every precious moment!
Wish impact studies show that a child's wish lives on, long after the moment. A wish gives more than just hope – with an incredible and lasting effect on the lives of sick kids, their families and wider communities.