In September and October of last year, Wolumla’s Ben Trowbridge was “very very sick” after his appendix ruptured.
He was admitted to South East Regional Hospital for surgery and spent nine days on the ward, “although it felt longer” mum Emily said.
Not long after they got Ben home, his follow up blood test showed a problem, so on his 11th birthday he was back in hospital for another 24 hours – Ben said “it was the best birthday ever” as he got plenty of attention and even home-baked cupcakes from the nurses.
A large abcess was discovered on his bowel and he was put on antibiotics and again headed home.
Ten days later Ben was in extreme pain and was again admitted to SERH, this time with a twisted bowel. It was four days in hospital this time. He dropped seven kilos during the ordeal and has scarring on his small intestine.
Now Ben is “80 per cent recovered” after what could only have been a horrendous few weeks, and with a healthy respect for everything the nurses do for their patients on the children’s ward he wanted to do something special in return.
While the first trip to hospital was a really rough time for Ben and his parents, the second time around he had the use of an iPad.
“It was great to keep his mind off stuff and some instant gratification while lying in a hospital bed,” Emily said.
With that in mind, he went about raising money to purchase an iPad for the ward.
Dad Aaron took the idea to his Bearded Villains colleagues (see breakout, below), who all jumped on board in line with their focus on charity and community support.
Selling patches among the group – “patches are like currency in the Bearded Villains world” Aaron said – they raised $740. With that they purchased an iPad as well as three portable DVD players and a selection of DVDs.
“Harvey Norman at Tura, and James in particular, went out of their way to help and gave us some good discounts,” Aaron said.
The gift to the children’s ward was the Trowbridges’ way of saying thanks for the wonderful service they received.
“Without theses ladies on the ward, it would have been a lot harder. They kept us sane, they were family,” Emily said.
“Ben said the other day ‘I didn’t mind having my appendix burst because I got to meet all these nice people’!”
Bearded Villains’ big hearts
Dedicated to the Beard, Charity, Family, Respect, Loyalty...in that order.
The Bearded Villains may sound like a club for rough bikers in black leathers, but the reality is rather different.
“Members might have a bike – mine’s a mountain bike,” Aaron Trowbridge of Wolumla quipped.
“Most of them are family men...who spend more time in the bathroom than their partners!” his wife Emily added.
According to their website, the Bearded Villains were originally established in 2014 in Los Angeles, “with the purpose of showcasing bearded men with character, from your next door neighbor to the supermodel on GQ”.
Friday’s donation to the children’s ward of the South East Regional Hospital was the first major fundraising activity for the Bega Valley chapter of the worldwide brotherhood.
Unsurprising given there are only two official members, and a third bearded bloke as a supporter keen to join.
However late last year they did donate $200 to Pearl’s Place, Aaron said.
Member Alec Hyde said he was part of the Wollongong group when he lived there, with a lot of support for the Wollongong homeless hub among their community support activities.
“The more people know about us, the more we can help our community,” they said.