Our News Blog


Club Teen Turns 10 - Ben's Story

Suzanna Barry - Tuesday, September 25, 2018

This month, September 2018,  we're celebrating 10 years of our Club Teen program. Club Teen was established in 2008, following a successful Commonwealth Government grant for the Extra Support for Teenagers with a Disability program. Community Living & Respite Services (CLRS) was one of 7 Victorian organisations selected to deliver this program, which we named Club Teen.

The program was quickly expanded thanks to philanthropic donors, fundraising and further government support to include children under 12. The program provides Before & After School Care during school terms, and Holiday Programs from 8am – 6pm for 10 weeks of school holidays. Club Teen benefits around 80 children each year. This provides enormous assistance to families and creates wonderful opportunities for children to experience a range of activities, develop skills and make new friends.

With the permission of Prue O’Dea we are pleased to share Ben’s story. Ben is one of the children who attends Club. Teen.

Ben’s story

Benjamin (Ben) a delightful 12 year old, is the much loved son of Prue and David O’Dea and Lauren's younger brother.  Ben was born with oesophageal atresia and duodenal atresia (both his bowel and oesophagus were not attached to his stomach) which meant that he spent the first six months of his life at the Royal Children’s Hospital.

During Ben’s first 10 days the doctors and a geneticist hinted that Ben might have Down Syndrome. The family had a meeting on Day 10 that confirmed his diagnosis.  Prue remembers her strong emotions at this news, but at the time all his medical problems were the priority and his Down Syndrome diagnosis was a mere sideline.  Ben stayed in the neonatal intensive care unit being “fattened up” for four and a half months.

At four and a half months old he had a 6 hour surgery to connect his stomach to his oesophagus.  The surgeon cut Ben’s tummy in half and fashioned part of his stomach into the lower section of an oesophagus and then stitched it all up again.  No mean feat on a 4.9 kg baby.  They finally got to take Ben home on 22 March 2007.  He was nearly 6 months old.

Prue remembers receiving some advice from her mid-wife that the family lives by – “just take one day at a time”.

The O’Dea’s involvement with CLRS started back in 2009 when Ben and Prue attended “My Time” – a supported play group. When Ben started school at Echuca Specialist School, David and Prue juggled work rosters to make sure they could collect both the kids from different schools. Then, Ben was registered with Club Teen – the CLRS Before and After School Care and Holiday Program, in case of an emergency. This time came and Prue phoned the Club Teen Coordinator Sue Edwards, who said she could fit Ben in at after school care. That evening Prue was delighted to hear that Megan, one of the original My Time carers, had taken special care of Ben.

In 2016 Prue and David participated in “Johnno’s Run” for the first time and were so proud of their achievements, but even more pleased to have had the opportunity to help in raising money for the “Opening Doors” project. The following year Prue and Lauren were part of the 2017 team, and in 2018 all the family participated and completed the 5kms. This was a fun family experience, that Prue says had such a wonderful community feel, with everyone united in participating for a great cause.

CLRS continues to assist Ben and his family, helping them through the NIDS journey. The O’Dea’s have the comfort of knowing that on the days when challenges arise there is someone around who can assist. CLRS is pleased to be that resource for their family.

To us all Ben is just Ben. His Down Syndrome does not define him.

Thank you to Prue for sharing Ben's story. Thank you to each person in our community that supports the work of CLRS and enables us to provide Club Teen and other programs that assist children and adults with disability.

Kind regards

Suzanna Barry


Pictured above is Ben playing UNO with his parents David & Prue.


Community News August 2018

Suzanna Barry - Thursday, August 02, 2018

Our August newsletter is hot of the press and full of photos of our Johnno's Run team who participated in Run Melbourne last weekend.

We had a great day, with so many from our community doing their "personal best"  to raise funds and awareness for the Opening Doors Project.  Thank you to all who participated, donated or sponsored Johnno's Run 2018.  We are thrilled that a number of people who receive support from CLRS enjoyed participating this year - some for the second time!  We are also thrilled to announce that $65,000 has been raised.  We are looking forward to the Moama Opening Doors Project progressing over the next few months, and plan that construction will commence early 2019.

Read Newsletter here

We also have a special birthday coming up - Club Teen is turning 10!  Time has certainly flown and the young people we first supported when Club Teen began are now young adults.  We hope that many past and current participants will join us in celebrating this milestone.

Community News June 2018

Suzanna Barry - Friday, June 01, 2018

Our June / July Community News is hot off the press! Read Newsletter here

We can hardly believe we are almost half way through 2018. We continue to be busy, particularly with the NDIS implementation and clients approaching their first NDIS review.

It is wonderful to see many of our clients embracing Johnno's Run this year, with many attending the Johnno's Run walk/run training sessions at Scenic Drive on Monday afternoons (4.30 pm or 5.15 pm). All are welcome to come along. Thanks to all who are participating or supporting team members.

You may like to follow the team's progress over the next couple of months - Team Members

Thank you for your continued support of Community Living & Respite Services.

Best wishes

Suzanna Barry


April 2018 News

Suzanna Barry - Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Our April newsletter is hot off the press! We hope you enjoy catching up with our latest news. We have included some great photos of our Johnno's Run 2018 launch, Annual Fundraising Dinner and Club Teen out & about in our community.

Read Newsletter here

The Annual Fundraising Dinner was a great success and Anna Meares OAM was a fantastic guest speaker. $73,500 was raised which will support the Opening Doors Project in Moama which we hope to commence later this year, if successful with outstanding grant applications.



















Volunteer Newsletter - March 2018

Suzanna Barry - Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Welcome to the March edition of our monthly Volunteer Newsletter, which keeps volunteers informed of what’s happening at Community Living & Respite Services, upcoming events, points of interest, profiles of new and existing volunteers.

Please feel free to provide any feedback, comments and suggestions for improvement.

Read Newsletter Here

If you would like to enquire about volunteering opportunities, I would love to hear from you. We particularly need volunteers for the Op Shop at 4 Percy Street Echuca for Saturday mornings. If you could assist once a month for a few hours, please let me know!

Give Happy, Live Happy!

Liz Rowsell

Volunteer Coordinator

lrowsell@clrs.org.au 03 5480 2388


February 2018 News

Suzanna Barry - Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Our February newsletter is hot off the press!  We hope you enjoy catching up with our latest news.  We have included some great photos of our clients enjoying the holiday activities, taking leadership roles and enjoying a cruise to the Pacific Islands.

Read Newsletter here

We would also like to extend our thanks to Moama Bowling Club who is the Event Sponsor of our upcoming 12th Annual Fundraising Dinner, along with Major Sponsors: Echuca Amcal, Bella Casa Houseboats, Riverine Herald, Ausure, Mawsons, Riverboats Music Festival, Bob the Blindman, Echuca House and Murray River Council.  Thanks also to all the local businesses who have been donating raffle and auction items and booking tickets to attend this sell out event.

December 2017 Newsletter

Suzanna Barry - Thursday, November 30, 2017

Our December newsletter is hot off the press.  I hope you enjoy reading our latest news! 

As you will see on the front of our newsletter Martyn Lawrence was the guest speaker at our recent Annual General Meeting. Martyn's engaging presentation was very informative and was very much enjoyed by all in attendance. Martyn enjoys opportunities to practice his public speaking skills - so please keep him in mind.

Our "cruisers' have now returned from a wonderful holiday in the sun!  Watch our facebook page for some photos in the near future!

We have limited tickets (7 in fact) left for our upcoming cruise on the Pride of the Murray.  Guests will be entertained by local talented musician Benny Walker.  Get in quick to enjoy an afternoon of great company and music on Saturday December 9, 2017.  Tickets can be purchased here.

Read Newsletter Here


We're saying thank you!

Suzanna Barry - Saturday, November 18, 2017


This week, from Monday November 20, we're saying thank you to our community supporters with a Complimentary Cup Cake promotion. Monday - Saturday all customers of the Murray River Tea Rooms will receive a complimentary cup cake.

This is just a small token of our appreciation to the households of Echuca/Moama, Rochester, Tongala and beyond who support our Recyclability Program and the Murray River Tea Rooms. The weekly kerbside collection has enabled CLRS to establish these two social enterprises.  These not only provide great environmental benefits but most importantly create wonderful opportunities for people with disability to learn new skills and enjoy greater community inclusion through interaction with a wide range of community members.

Paige from Sweet Spot Cakery will be busy baking all week – so please call into the Murray River Tea Rooms at 10 Meninya Street Moama and say hello to the team. Your cup cake will be complimentary each day with any purchase of absolutely anything at all from the Tea Rooms. We know the cakes will be delicious so they will be limited to 1 per customer per day. You’re welcome to call in every day!

This promotion coincides with Community and Philanthropy Partnerships week – so a perfect time to celebrate the achievements of our community.

We’re also releasing a video that showcases the community support of the Tea Rooms – so keep a watch out on our social media pages on Tuesday November 21.

Thank you again for your valued support!



Volunteer Newsletter - November 2017

Suzanna Barry - Tuesday, November 07, 2017


Welcome to the November edition of our monthly Volunteer Newsletter, which keeps volunteers informed of what’s happening at Community Living & Respite Services, upcoming events, points of interest, profiles of new and existing volunteers.

Please feel free to provide any feedback, comments and suggestions for improvement.

Read Newsletter Here

If you would like to enquire about volunteering opportunities, I would love to hear from you.  We particularly need volunteers for the Op Shop at 4 Percy Street Echuca for Saturday mornings.  If you could assist once a month for a few hours, please let me know!

Give Happy, Live Happy!

Liz Rowsell

Volunteer Coordinator

lrowsell@clrs.org.au 03 5480 2388


Our six month milestone - Murray River Tea Rooms

Suzanna Barry - Tuesday, November 07, 2017

It’s been six months since the Murray River Tea Rooms social enterprise opened its doors, so a perfect time for reflection.

To date the initiative has been a wonderful success with every indication this will continue. Like any start-up there's been many hours required and I've witnessed significant discretionary effort, high engagement and widespread enthusiasm from staff and volunteers.

So what have been some of the outcomes?

Last week I was meeting with a Board member at the Tea Rooms and one of the client volunteers came and sat next to us. Although she doesn’t speak a lot, she made her request to join the conversation known. She was very comfortable to be present with us while she had her cuppa. You would describe this young lady as quiet and reserved and to witness this increase in confidence was fantastic. Her achievements are highlighted in Community Living & Respite Services recent Annual Report and when I congratulated her on that, I got the thumbs up!

Last month another one of the client volunteers launched, at the Tea Rooms, a novel she has written the assistance of Siri. This was a private function hosted by her family and it was such a joyful occasion. Bella Claire, (a pen name), is keen to encourage others, that despite the challenges of complex medical needs and disability, it's important to reach for the stars. Bella's book sales are going well and I’m guessing she is already planning a sequel.

Bella is thoroughly enjoying her involvement with the Tea Rooms and has also developed greater self confidence. I was thrilled to see her teaching one of our older community volunteers how to operate the EFTPOS machine.

The support of sponsors has been heart warming and has ranged from local home based businesses to large corporate organisations donating supplies. Receiving this start up support is very important. Our staff employment costs (training and supporting our clients), are a large expense so any savings through the donation of products and supplies makes a real difference. However it is the community ownership that results from this support that is making the Murray River Tea Rooms a talking point. The Tea Rooms have become a community initiative - with so many people seeing the social impact and wanting it to succeed. We are very grateful that all sectors of the community are assisting where they can.

My favourite story is the recent contact from a new restaurant in Moama - Sen on Madison. Business owners, Trieu, Julie and their team, offered to donate Vietnamese cuisine on a regular basis. This is fantastic as we currently have a limited lunch time menu. Chicken rice paper rolls provide a nice alternative to a ham and cheese toastie, particularly with summer approaching.

Julie explained that the Sen on Madison team were keen to help as they are beneficiaries of the Vietnamese Social enterprise, KOTO. Coming from a background of disadvantage Julie and Trieu explained it is now their turn to give back.

The first six months have flown by. The team at the Tea Rooms are about to experience the Echuca Moama tourist season, which will be another learning curve. I look forward to providing another update soon.

Suzanna Barry


Pictured L:R Mikayla Armstron, Trieu Le (Sen on Madison) & CLRS Board member Andrew Cowin


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