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Xena celebrates Starship fundraiser

East and Bays Courier
28 November 2008

In two minutes and 30 seconds, celebrity Lucy Lawless made up a children's bed complete with colourful pillows and pink sheets to mark the end of a fundraising campaign for Starship children's hospital.

Australian-based linen and manchester company Lorraine Lea Linen has raised $115,000 for the oncology ward through its Party for Kids with Cancer initiative Ė the first time the company has raised money for a New Zealand charity.

Chief executive Adrian Ryan struggled to keep up with the quick pace set by Ms Lawless, the hospital patron, in front of an eager crowd at the Starship atrium on Tuesday.

He admits he was nervous before his debut, and even googled the Xena: Warrior Princess star the night before "to see how credible my bedmaking opponent might be".

The contest was judged by Starship vice-chairwoman Rosie Horton and former oncology patient Ruby Seeto who declared the race a "dead-heat".

The same bed would take hospital staff less than two minutes to make.

The money will go towards renovating eight single inpatient rooms for pre-teen patients who need space to recover away from much younger patients.

This is part of a $6 million upgrade of the oncology and haemotology ward.

For 11-year-old Ruby and mum Sharon, the upgrade couldnít come soon enough. Ruby was diagnosed with a rare form of liver cancer in October 2006.

She was sharing a room with three other sick children, their parents, caregivers and equipment.

"It was called the Ďdreaded roomí. It was quite traumatic," says Mrs Seeto.

"There were babies crying, sick people all over the place, only one TV, equipment beeping, and you have to be quiet.

"Itís like a railway station, doctors and nurses coming and going. I slept on a camp stretcher, I even slept under the sink Ė something that is forever in my memory."

The Ellerslie resident welcomes the new rooms, saying itís vital to separate children of different ages who have different needs.

Ruby is now 12 months past her chemotherapy, "healed, happy and energetic", but still comes to the hospital once every few months.

"If you have your individual room, then you have some peace. Youíre stuck with your own misery, but you donít want to share the misery of others."

Starship chief executive Andrew Young says the money will allow them to bring rooms up to international standards with the latest medical equipment.

"Iím so proud and grateful that in their first efforts to raise money for a New Zealand charity, they raised a record amount."

Now in its ninth year, the Party for Kids with Cancer fund was established in memory of Lorraine Lea Linenís founder Peter Ryan, who lost his battle with the disease in 1999.

A different hospital receives the funds each year. Last year, more than $75,000 was raised for the Sydney childrenís hospital.

Mr Ryan says itís exciting a New Zealand hospital has benefited this year.

"For the last few years since we have been active in New Zealand, our consultants there have been supporting fundraising for Australian hospitals," he says.

"With Starship as the recipient this year, our Australian consultants were very pleased to finally be returning the favour."