When the third series of Struggle Street went to air on SBS in October, the story of one family battling to care for a chronically ill child struck a chord with viewers.
Five-year-old Cody, who has a chronic kidney disorder known as Dent disease, lives with his family in the village of Nangus in the Riverina region of New South Wales.
His mother, Peta, describes in Struggle Street how the lack of paediatric health services in the country made it difficult to care for Cody, who requires frequent trips to Wagga Wagga, Canberra and Sydney for doctor appointments and hospital stays.
Cody’s medical care also puts a considerable financial strain on the family. Ricky regularly takes on extra work to make ends meet, which means he is often away from home. Much to Peta’s surprise, offers of help for Cody and his family started rolling in after the series went to air. “It’s really opened my eyes to how much people care, and how they will do anything they can to help,” she says.
The family currently lives in two separate self-contained cabins, so when Noel Trevaskis, a member of the local Rotary branch, called with an offer of assistance, Peta jumped at the chance to finally secure more stable housing for her family.
Ricky bought a larger transportable home to fix up a couple of years ago but, with constant medical bills to pay, has never been able to start on the project.
Cody’s medical issues mean he is “is going to struggle with everything he does in life,” says Peta.
Cody’s medical issues mean he is “is going to struggle with everything he does in life,” says Peta. “Our long-term goal is to get him into a house, especially for winter times…We don’t ever want to get to a point where he goes into care because we don’t have the facilities to care for him.”
Work on the new home will start in the new year. “You have no idea how much…Cody is going to benefit from being in a warm house,” says Peta. “We live at the foot of the Snowy Mountains – it gets cold.”
Another offer of help came from Kellie Roberts, the proprietor of Lake Village Takeaway in Wagga, who got in touch with an idea to run ‘12 Days of Christmas for Cody’ to raise money for Cody’s medical treatment. Roberts called on local businesses for donations and received everything from Christmas hams to giftpacks from Junee Licorice & Chocolate Factory to include in a daily online auction, which started on December 1.
Roberts’ benevolence didn’t end there. Choc-Tops for Cody saw the takeaway shop donate 100 per cent of proceeds from ice cream sales over one weekend to Cody and his family. Roberts is also selling homemade candles – Candles for Cody – for the fundraising drive. “She’s been amazing,” says Peta.
This much-needed financial assistance will help cover the many expenses associated with Cody’s illness, from travel and accommodation when he has to go to Sydney for specialist appointments to equipment like a blood pressure machine. “It takes the pressure off the day to day stuff,” says Peta.
Even more valuable than this financial help is the emotional support Peta has received.
Even more valuable than this financial help is the emotional support Peta has received. The last five years have been tough for Peta, who has felt isolated and, at times, depressed as she has done her best to raise her kids and care for Cody with little help. “A lot of my family and friends are in Sydney,” she says. “I’m here by myself with the two kids.”
Since Struggle Street went to air, that sense of isolation has receded. “I almost feel like a min-celebrity,” she says, laughing. “When I go shopping, the amount of people who stop me – they genuinely care. They ask how Cody’s going…People can’t seem to do enough for you.”
The community’s generosity has been overwhelming, says Peta. “I never expected anything like this to come out of it. We are just so blown away.”
She’s grateful that her decision to take part in Struggle Street will ultimately benefit Cody and Bree. “These kids have no idea how much people love and support them, and as a parent, I can’t believe it. I’m gobsmacked.”
You can watch Season 3 of Struggle Street on SBS On Demand now.
Catch up on episode one: