The Clubs & Community Awards recognise the support that clubs give their communities and encourages them to share their stories and the positive impact they make.
Whilst The Epping Club is passionate about providing an exceptional customer experience, we are equally deeply invested in the vast and meaningful impacts we make in the wider area. The Epping Club believes in not directly and indirectly contributing to community but creating it.
It was for this reason in 2018 that The Epping Club embarked on their largest ever individual community program, a 12-month partnership with the Karonga School. This partnership was to be impactful, results-driven and valuable, making a genuine difference in both Club culture and most importantly the lives of severely disabled children. Karonga is a local special needs school for children with severe intellectual disabilities. Many of the Karonga students have multiple, complex disabilities and challenging healthcare needs.
Karonga’s commitment is to provide quality, individualised education in a positive and supportive environment. It’s aim is to implement meaningful learning experiences which encourage resilience and independence for all its attendees.
The school is committed to developing partnerships with families and the local community to enable its students to become life-long learners and valued members of society. Educational programs at Karonga span early years through to the end of high school.
When Epping’s CEO Peter Saez met Karonga’s Principal Mark Gosbell, Peter was moved to tears as he toured the school. He was inspired by the incredible educators who were so passionate about their roles in the children’s lives and he was touched by the community of students who despite dealing with vast challenges were delighted to welcome him into their classrooms.
On visiting, Peter noted the condition of the children’s multi-sport area. A large, concrete slab with two aging, damaged basketball rings, uneven surfaces, dangerous cracks and holes. It was drab, uninspiring and largely unsuitable to the needs of the children who were using it. Principal Mark expressed the need for improving the facilities and the lack of funding to achieve it, and vision was formed.
On ‘Do Something Day’ 2018 The Epping Club announced its intentions to raise $60,000 for Karonga to upgrade its multi-sport surfaces. This initiative would see the restoration of existing infrastructure as well as installation of a new playing surface, tennis nets, basketball and netball hoops and new multi-sport line marking. These improvements would make participation in sport and physical activity more accessible to the students of Karonga as well as enabling safer, more beneficial and easy play.
To launch the new partnership a tree was planted to symbolise the ongoing relationship. This was actually the first tree of a sensory orchid olive grove which was funded by the Club. As dirt was broken the beginning of a moving, impactful and mutually rewarding partnership began.
It was the Epping Club’s long term plan that the Karonga initiative would be an ongoing partnership, not simply the presentation of a giant cheque via Club Grants funds. The contribution was to be achieved from multiple sources across all facets of the business so that it not only achieved the desired end result but was a deep-seeded cultural partnership the entire club would embrace.
It was of equal importance of Club Manager Peter Saez that the culture of the Club’s Board, Employees and members be as invested in this project as he was so the goal was to create a calendar of events where the greater club community was ‘rallying’ for the success of the project.
‘As of today, and directly as a result of the Epping Club’s impact, the Karonga School’s multi-purpose sports court is now under construction. This is a true milestone as until this partnership presented there was no ability to undertake this upgrade…’ Mark Gosbell, Principal
As a direct result of the ongoing fundraising of the Epping Club, the entire project amount has been funded for the project to be undertaken. Whilst still being finished the project will be completed in the next three months and provide students with a safe, appropriate and accessible play space.
‘I have seen the Club internally embrace this concept from the most junior staff to our CEO, it has culturally united the business…’ Melissa Gillooly, Marketing Manager Epping Club
As was CEO, Peter Saez intention, fundraising for the Karonga partnership was never to simply be a matter of presenting cheques and walking away. The Karonga partnership has motivated, inspired and united Epping Club staff, management and board members with the ongoing shared commitment that the students deserved the best resources possible.
‘I have lived in the area for almost 40 years and until the Epping Club became involved with Karonga and I didn’t even know the school existed. Today I am invested in the community and proud that my Club has made such a huge commitment to provide these special children with the facilities they so desperately need. I have attended Food & Wine, Seniors Week and Friday Raffles all because these are contributors to the Karonga project…’ Kathryn Sharpe, Club Member
Raising the profile of the school through the greater community has been of great benefit to Karonga. With so many locals now aware of the schools existence, its inspiring work and its resourcing needs community locals and club members have sought to actively be involved in seeing the partnership to fruition.
With the Karonga partnership now firmly a part of the Epping Club’s culture, all eyes are on the completion of our first major project this term.
Karonga will remain the Epping Club’s major beneficiaries of fundraising and a quarterly meeting is now in place to review ongoing requirements for the school and establish their next major goals.
Accessible pathways for the students to their ovals has been identified as a major need and is currently being scoped. With many students in wheelchairs there is currently no way for them to access the ovals. A low gradient path is required to give them access to the large green spaces that are available but currently inaccessible.
Whatever project is finalised as the next goal for the Epping Club and Karonga School partnership it will be as valuable, meaningful and impactful to the school as it is the Club. Watch this space.