Volunteers With Heart

Sands Queensland is very lucky to have the volunteers we do. Each person brings their own skills and abilities, helping out in different ways to form a fantastic team.

Melissa Zaini

Melissa began volunteering with Sands in 2014 and in that short time has successfully established herself as a new regional contact in the Innisfail area. Melissa not only volunteers as a parent supporter on the 24 hour phone line, but also holds support meetings for Innisfail families.

‘My nomination for Sands Queensland Volunteer goes to Melissa for all her hard work she has put in setting up the Innisfail group and running the support meetings.  She is passionate and loving natured, which is what Sands needs in volunteers.

She was a big part of our Cold Cot fundraiser and Walk to Remember last year. It is so great to work with her.’ ~ Kate Minto, Butterfly Co-ordinator

Melissa and local Member Curtis Pitt at the Cairns Walk to Remember

Melissa and local Member Curtis Pitt at the Cairns walk to Remember


Dani Hall

Dani is an active participant in our online community, offering support to families in the Sands Queensland online support group, taking part in online events and even organising online events to give other parents an opportunity to connect and support one another even over long distances.












Dani’s son Harrison is a great volunteer too, helping Mum participate in online events. All in memory of his big brother Jasper.

For the last two years Dani has organised our Christmas Gift Exchange where parents are paired up and send a gift in memory of their baby to each other.

‘After the first Christmas Gift Exchange in 2013, there was a lot of positive feedback from parents who participated. Some were published in the February 2014 Hourglass. I remember reading one from Natalie about how a butterfly whose colour and type she had never seen before landed on her the day she sent her gift, and how she believed it was a sign from the baby of the parent she sent the gift to. She commented about how it was a very special gift, and this story has always stuck with me.  Through the Christmas Gift Exchange, bereaved parents were thinking about each other’s babies and it is so wonderful that we think of each other and support each other like that. It made me determined to do the gift exchange every year.’ ~ Dani

Dani volunteers in memory of her son Jasper – ‘It is a way for me to support bereaved parents through their unimaginable pain, and makes me feel like I am connected to Jasper at the same time.’


At the Walk to Remember with Harrison and husband Corey, honouring Jasper’s memory.

Thank you Dani for the care and commitment you have made to helping the Sands online community. You make the group more connected and bring meaning to our motto of ‘parents supporting parents’.

Nell Hakfoort

Nell found support at Sands in 2014 after the death of her baby Jasper.   Ever since she came to Sands, Nell has been a volunteering powerhouse attending the monthly volunteer day at Sands House and contributing her amazing graphic design skills. If you’ve seen our Save Sands Gala materials, you’ve seen some of Nell’s work. In late March Nell and her teenage son Oliver also volunteered at a garage sale at Sands House staged by midwives from The Wesley Hospital, helping to make the day a great success.

Nell hard at work in preparation for the very successful garage sale with midwives from The Wesley Hospital

Nell hard at work in preparation for the very successful garage sale with midwives from The Wesley Hospital







Volunteer Spotlight – Bev Homel

Bev is another of Sands Queensland’s long time members and volunteers who has contributed an enormous amount of her time and skills, helping to shape Sands into the organisation that it is. Her hard work and dedication to ensuring Sands Queensland is a supportive place for bereaved parents has been her greatest gift to Sands in memory of her daughter Rosalie and son Andrew.

‘I joined Sands in Western Australia shortly after Rosalie died and the support I received there kept me afloat through those first very hard six months.  I strongly believe in the principle of mutual support – we don’t come to Sands as clients in a subordinate role – we are all bereaved parents who support each other.  Therefore it was natural for me to keep involved with Sands so that newly bereaved parents would be helped as I had been helped.’

Attending the Sands Walk to Remember

Attending the Sands Walk to Remember

Parent volunteers supporting one another

Parent volunteers supporting one another











Bev has been involved in many aspects of Sands Queensland and is always a strong advocate for what we do – parents supporting parents.

‘Over the years I took on more management responsibilities, serving as President of Sands Qld for a number of years but I have always maintained a link to direct support because it keeps me in touch with why we exist – to help bereaved parents navigate the journey of grief.  Now I facilitate the monthly evening support meetings in Brisbane.’

Nicole took on the role of Committee President in 2013, here with outgoing president Bev Homel

Handing over the reigns of Committee President to Nicole.

We asked Bev what volunteering for Sands Queensland has given her, and she said, ‘A lot of worry and sleepless nights and deep satisfaction that it’s been worthwhile and has helped other people.’

Sands Queensland can not thank you enough Bev for all you have done.






Volunteer Spotlight – Marion Grimmett

Marion is one of our long standing Sands members, who has been volunteering with us for about 30 years and fondly refers to herself as ‘the old Sands bag’. Of course she is nothing of the sort. Marion brings her energy and enthusiasm for getting a job done every volunteer day at Sands House and is always a willing listener for new parents and volunteers.

Celebrating Marions birthday at Sands House

Celebrating Marions birthday at Sands House

Marion found support at Sands in the 1980’s, many years after the death of her son John in 1960. Over the years she has been involved in many Sands Queensland support opportunities, events and fundraising.

‘We were finally allowed to grieve and have our son acknowledged after so many years of not being able to mention his existence.’ ~ Marion

On volunteering for Sands Marion said,

‘Age is slowing me down, I use to help one day a week in the office, but I still like to help on Newsletter day, and make little wraps and beanies for the tiny ones. 

I remember the many times of being able to sit with parents and listen and often cry with them. And later hearing how Sands has helped them. It was just natural to help others, if possible, in their grief journey, as we had been helped in ours.’

Marion makes beautiful sets for the Sands Butterfly group

Marion makes beautiful sets for the Sands Butterfly group

Thank you Marion for your years of dedication to helping Sands Queensland continue to support and be there for bereaved parents. Your warmth and compassion is an asset to us.






Volunteer Spotlight – Kate Minto

As part of National Volunteer Week we are going to introduce you to some of our amazing volunteers. Sands Queensland could not operate the way it does without these inspiring people who give their time, energy and heart so enthusiastically.


Our first volunteer in the spotlight is Kate Minto.


Kate Minto (right) and Cairns Regional Contact Nerissa


Kate first came to Sands for support in  2012 after the death of her son Fletcher and over time has become an extremely valuable volunteer in Cairns as well as on a state level.

In 2014 Kate became Butterfly Coordinator in Cairns, organising the making and distribution of the Sands Queensland memory bag and bereavement clothing. Her dedication to her role has seen her donate over 30 memory bags and over 100 items of clothing to hospitals locally and further in North Queensland.

Donations ready to go to hospital

Donations ready to go to hospital


‘It is my absolute pleasure to nominate Kate Minto as a volunteer who has made a difference at Sands. Kate has made an amazing difference to the work Sands does in supporting families across Queensland, including Cairns.

Kate has worked tirelessly to supply Cairns and surrounding areas hospitals with items for families who are touched by pregnancy and infant loss. She is always the first to put her hand up to volunteer for any event in Cairns and played a crucial role in the fundraising and purchase of the Cuddle Cot and camera for the Cairns Hospital. Just recently Kate organised an event that fundraised over $1000 for Sands and is running the Queensland Online Mother’s Day Handmade Market, the Cairns Bereaved Mother’s Day morning tea and Walk to Remember in Cairns this year. Kate’s approach to all of these activities is done with care and respect for all those she works with.

Kate is also a parent supporter for Sands, online, at support groups and on the 1300 line. She has such compassion, genuineness and warmth about her that people really appreciate.

Kate does all this while juggling three small children and a household. Kate is an amazing volunteer for Sands Queensland.

~ Nerissa, Sands Queensland Committee member and Cairns Regional Contact

When asked why she volunteers for Sands, Kate said

‘I have been thinking about this and for me something I have found at all the events and through talking to people is that what we do really does make a difference and it helps people to feel like they are not alone. So many people feel alone in their grief, & I felt the same way until I found Sands.  It is so wonderful to be given the opportunity to volunteer and give something back whilst helping other families know that there is support.’

Thank you Kate from all of us at Sands Queensland. We truly do appreciate all that you have done and continue to do.









Sands Queensland and National Volunteer Week 2015



Established in 1989, National Volunteer Week is the largest celebration of volunteers and volunteerism in Australia, and provides an opportunity to highlight the role of volunteers in our community and to say thank you.

Volunteering Australia has announced this years’ theme – Give Happy, Live Happy and we want to hear from our members about your volunteering or how a Sands volunteer has made a difference to you. We rely heavily on our amazing volunteers and this would be a wonderful opportunity to give them that extra recognition and word of thanks that they deserve.





Nominate a Sands Queensland volunteer who has made a difference to you.

The volunteer can be a past or present volunteer who has a positive impact on you.

How to nominate: include the volunteers name and details about why you have nominated them.


Share your positive volunteering experience with Sands Queensland.

Write and tell us how you volunteered and what it meant to you. Did it help you connect with your family and community? Did it have a positive impact on your grief journey?

If you have a photo to go with your story, please attach as a full size jpeg file.

Nominations and volunteering stories can be sent to events@sandsqld.org.au by April 25th.


All volunteers who submit a story and nominees will receive a special award from Sands Queensland during Volunteer Week. Stories and nominations will be shared via our members newsletter ‘Hourglass’ and Sands Queensland Facebook page.

Join us for Volunteer Week May 11th – 17th and celebrate the difference we all make.

The Voice of Experience

Guest post by Janelle Tsockallos, Parent Supporter with Sands Queensland



My name is Janelle.  My husband and I have been Sands members since early 2005 when we experienced the loss or our twins. We were so grateful to Sands for the support and friendship we received in the following years.

In 2008, the state co-ordinator asked if I would attend the Listener’s Training Workshop. I was honoured she felt that I could be helpful to other bereaved parents and the Sands organisation. I have been on the telephone listener’s roster for five years now and I find it to be a very rewarding role. To be able to offer support to bereaved parents is a way of honouring our own babies.

Whilst we are not professional counsellors, volunteer listeners are all bereaved parents who have completed a training workshop. Many people can offer you sympathy after the loss of your baby, but a Sands listener can offer you empathy. Whilst the circumstances of our baby’s loss may be different to yours, there are many common aspects of the grief journey we all travel.

Telephone support is available through the 1300 0 sands (1300 072 637) support line 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you feel the need to talk to someone or need support, do not hesitate to call. You are never wasting our time. Every call is important. If a listener is not available when you phone, please leave a message and we will get back to you as soon as possible. Listeners are not judgemental, we are here to listen and support.

It is a big step for some people to reach out for help and pick up the phone to make that initial call to 1300 0 Sands support line. Many bereaved parents and family members find it such a relief that they can talk to and open up to someone who understands what they are thinking and feeling during one of the most shattering experiences of their lives.

Remember you are not alone. Sands is only a phone call away.

The Power of Sands Queensland Volunteers


This year’s theme for National Volunteer Week (NVW) is ‘The Power of Volunteers’. What a great theme for Sands, since Sands is powered by volunteers. Without all our wonderful volunteers we couldn’t reach out through the Queensland community like we do.

To celebrate NVW, we want to show you how each piece of what someone does contributes to a whole. How what each person does matters; how Sands achieves its mission support parents and families who experience the death of their baby before, during or after birth.

In 2013, a number people participated in the Bridge to Brisbane. Some formed teams, some ran as individuals but all made an outstanding effort to raise awareness and funds for Sands Queensland. Through the Every Day Hero page these participants set up donation pages to get their message out and ask for support and support is what they got – $30,000 was raised!

Thanks to these volunteers, Sands was able to hold Parent Support Training in two locations – Cairns and Brisbane. Regional Contact, Parent Supporter and Sands Queensland Committee member, Nerissa Healy, ran the training days, resulting in 4 new parents supporters for the support phone lines, email support and support groups.

Last year 350 support calls, 314 emails and 82 support meetings were held providing essential support services, and a place for bereaved parents to express their grief.

Volunteers power the support services at Sands Queensland. From the fundraisers who raise vital funds, to the long term volunteers who dedicate their time and skills, to the newly recruited volunteers making a commitment to carry on the Sands motto of parents supporting parents.


Thank you to all our volunteers!


If you would like to share your volunteering story, please use #NVW2014 and #NVWSands or post your comments and photos on our wall at http://www.facebook.com/SandsQld