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maya's rest

Maya’s Rest: respite for families doing it tough

Amanda Whitley

On 2 December 2011, Maya Ashlyn Maguire was born. She was perfect, except for a mysterious lump, which was soon found to be a rare form of soft tissue cancer, Rhabdomyosarcoma. And so began nearly two years of treatment including numerous surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, countless scans, over 50 general anaesthetics, drugs, pain and an emotional whirlwind for her parents, Tash and Mark, and sister Amelia. You can read about her journey here.

Five days shy of her second birthday, Maya passed away peacefully, just as gorgeous and cheeky and smiley as she always was, right to the very end.

“You took one last breathe I can still hear it now; you’d enriched our lives in a way no one will ever understand how.

We will celebrate your life as you deserve such a way, you inspired each person you met.”

maya

Not one to wallow in her own self pity, Tash decided there must be something she could do to make the lives of seriously ill children better, to make their often long stays in hospital all the more enjoyable. She established Warming Beautiful Souls, a project that aims to “bring a bit of happiness to children battling cancer, while evoking awareness of childhood cancer, which in turn will promote funding for research into cures for the many different kinds of childhood cancers.”

Originally only based in Canberra, Tash has expanded the network to all major centres of Australia, working tirelessly to distribute donations of clothes, toys and gifts for babies and children of all ages to enjoy during their hospital visits. But the Maguires still wanted to do more.

Whilst Maya was sick, the family found respite at Bear Cottage, a children’s hospice centre in Sydney.  Maya loved it here, it was a place that helped take away the pain and helped her feel like herself again.

“Living in Canberra, we had to travel for five hours to Bear Cottage in Manly for respite and end of life care,” says Tash.

“Without the support we received there we would not have been able to make it through the difficult times and would not have had the chance to make a lot of the wonderful memories we made, while the daily demands of life were taken care of.”

It was the desire to offer families in the Canberra district a similar reprieve that was the driving force behind ‘Maya’s Rest’, a home that Tash and Mark have purpose-built to offer non-medically assisted respite for families of children who are undergoing active treatment for life threatening illnesses.

“It’s a peaceful place families can escape to, where they will be given a comfortable place to stay, provided with meals and optional activities to allow them to concentrate on spending time together and making precious memories,” says Tash.

“They will be invited into the home of a family who knows firsthand how hard the journey they are on can be. We would like to offer respite to families that are finding it difficult to cope and need a few days to think about nothing but each other.”

Set on 12 acres, just outside Yass with beautiful views over the valley, Maya’s Rest will be offered free of charge to approved families, like a B&B but with no costs involved and all meals provided.

“We will be working with the local community in hope of offering optional activities at the house for the families, such as music therapy sessions, craft, and baby animal visits.”

Maya’s Rest will host its first family in January 2016, with one family to be hosted at a time, initially for one long weekend each month.

Maya’s Rest is privately owned and operated and is not a charity, business or non for profit organisation. In other words, Tash and Mark have financed (and will continue to finance) its operation. Before it opens in mid December, Maya’s Rest needs mobility equipment for the house and play equipment for the children’s play area. You can see a list of what equipment they’re seeking here.

Find out more and donate at www.mayasrest.com

“Your presence was simply too great to ignore, so we will celebrate your life, like never before.

Some people may wonder how we will get through, but our drive to enjoy life is our honour to you.”

the essentials

What: Maya’s Rest
Where: Dog Trap Road, Yass.
Web: www.mayasrest.com

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Amanda Whitley

Amanda Whitley is the founder and director of HerCanberra. In her 'spare time', she instructs zumba, loves to cook (and eat), and wrangles two gorgeous little girls. She's done everything from present the tv news to operate a stop and go sign and is passionate about connecting Canberra women. More about the Author

  • Suzanne Tunks

    Tash and her family have been through so much and have taken their tears and used them towards growing a wonderful legacy in honour of their beautiful daughter, Maya. We are so very lucky to have folks like the Maguires in our community and the gifts that they bring to the families with seriously ill children, not just locally but all over Australia, are so precious and needed. Congratulations Tash on bringing this huge and amazing dream to reality! xxx

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