Harry Cunningham can remember the day, three years ago, when his Swans teammate Rhyce Shaw asked if he had a spare few hours.
“Rhyce said he was about to visit the Children’s Hospital here in Randwick and asked me if I wanted to come along,” Cunningham recalled. “He said ‘mate, I love the visits and I reckon you’d love it as well, so if you want to tag along come with me’.”
Shaw was an ambassador for Redkite, an Australian organisation that offers support and services to children and young people (0–24 years) with cancer, as well as their families. Former Swans Brett Kirk and Jude Bolton had held similar roles, stretching the Swans’ association with Redkite 15 years back to 2001.
After that initial contact, Cunningham couldn’t wait to get back again for his next visit and has now become a Redkite ambassador as well.
“Shawry and I get along fortnightly, visiting kids, handing out posters, just anything we can do to get them laughing and put a smile on their faces,” Cunningham said.
“We’ve had plenty of times where we’ve made idiots of ourselves with the music therapy side of it. We walk around with a trolly full of instruments and hand one out to each kid and then it’s on us to sing whatever they want, even though Shawry and I can’t sing. Last year the big one seemed to be ‘Let It Go’ from the movie Frozen, and we always sneak in ‘Cheer, cheer, the Red and the White’.
“Basically we’re up for doing anything that We can to make it a little bit easier on the kids and their families, their brothers and sisters. We do it happily.”
– Harry Cunningham
“Basically we’re up for doing anything that we can to make it a little bit easier on the kids and their families, their brothers and sisters. We do it happily.
“The kids seems to love it and every player who’s been involved gets a lot out of it as well.”
Cunningham has kept up the tradition of inviting Swans footballers along, and last week he was accompanied by a few first-year players.
“It puts things into perspective. You might be worried about your form and whether you’re getting a kick, and then you get to the hospital and the kids are just rapt to see you.
“When you see the same kids there over a few visits it can make you a little bit emotional knowing that they’ve been in the hospital for so long. You just feel that kids should be out experiencing the good things in life rather than having to worry about their health.
“But it also makes you more determined to do whatever you can to help them fight the good fight.”
The Swans have devoted this Sunday’s SCG match against Melbourne to supporting Red Kite, dubbing it the inaugural #RedDay. Sydney is encouraging fans to wear red to the game and to buy a red headband or donate a gold coin.
“We’re hoping that we’ll have a sell-out crowd and that as many as possible of them will dress in red and maybe buy something that will result in a bit of money towards a great cause,” Cunningham said.
The Sydney playing group has also donated $5000 of its AFL Players Care funds to the cause.
Sunday’s match will feature a celebrity AFL 9s curtain raiser and Redkite families will form the guard of honour for the Sydney players running onto the SCG.
Donations to Redkite can be made HERE
Find out more about AFL Players Care HERE