We drive into the city -
the parents of a small girl who just left the hospital again,
after falling acutely ill quite quickly during the week,
the parents of a small girl who received a most amazing wish.
the parents of six others,
in various states of happiness on our departure
but who are now safely tucked up with their grandmother, watching a DVD and thinking about bed.
I wasn’t sure we’d make it
but here we are,
My hair and make-up have been styled by my friend at Barberella’s
and I’ve found my way into a beautiful dress.
and humbled all at once,
as we walk into a sea of people who are arriving for the festivities.
I feel like the girliest of girls.
David looks very handsome tonight, in his black suit, vest and a silvery tie
and I can’t remember the last time we were dressed up like this.
I feel like we are in some kind of dream -
We’ve been given a room key and a parcel, which once opened,
is a beautiful memory
and a reminder that we helped to make a difference to others in our own small way.
I love it -
my hands shake as I hold it up into the light to see my daughter’s face, smiling back at me.
The view from our room is spectacular and in some poetic twist
overlooks the harbour
and the very same Opera House that staged Ivy’s wish.
In the foyer there are people everywhere
and familiar purple, yellow and silver uniforms.
We are introduced to many
and handed champagne.
David, who has eaten little, downs two flutes and suddenly becomes very, very talkative
and I am thankful when someone leads us to our table.
The room is amazing, with dark walls
and fairy lights
and soft violet hues.
In the middle of each table are flickering tea lights in vellum covered cubes.
A photo of the girl is printed onto one side.
She’s there on the menu and on the program too
and I am so proud to see her there.
We are seated with another Starlight Family and some others -
Starlight friends mostly,
and Catriona Rowntree, who is hosting the night.
I’m a little star struck.
The room is full with almost five hundred seated around tables
and the amazing people who are co-ordinating the event.
They are efficient and brilliant.
There are some of the Starlight Captains here too -
three are ours;
they hug me tightly when we meet and calm my nerves.
They joke and laugh with me
and I begin to relax.
Everyone is very friendly
and many people come to talk of our girl.
They say she is an inspiration
and I feel overjoyed and overwhelmed.
We are welcomed to the dinner like old friends.
Announcements are made and then the first course is served.
It is thinly sliced calimari, marinated in lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, with poppy seeds, salmon caviar and sea urchin gelato
My mouth explodes with flavour.
Armondo is the founding chef of these dinners, which has become a major fundraiser for Starlight.
Coincidentally, he also has a small property in Wollombi, which is very close to home
and the wine that has been matched is a Semillion from Marsh Estate in Pokolbin, which is in our local area too.
It is a wonderful way to begin our meal.
While we eat a silent auction is started and numbers quickly flick up onto a large screen as people bid
and are then out bid.
Almost everything has been donated tonight and there are some wonderful things available.
Dave and I are amazed as the numbers climb.
He leans over and whispers into my ear (he is very tipsy by now) that there are four hundred and ninety wealthy people here
and then there is us.
I’m not sure how I feel about that thought, just yet – insufficient, maybe.
We play a game of ”guess the wine”.
David loses because he has had way too much of it already
and I lose because I know nothing about wine at all.
I have a fleeting thought that if my father were here, he would win
but in the end it doesn’t matter.
The auctioneer is brilliant with his words
and the whole room is jovial, no matter what happens.
I’m not exactly sure what I am eating
but it is delicious and light and the mystery vegetables are so crisp that I feel them pop in my mouth.
We hear from Terry, who tells of his daughter’s journey - it is both sad and empowering
and from Louise Baxter, who is Starlight’s CEO.
She introduces us to Jay Dohnt, who lost his legs and fingers to meningococcal disease but after having his wish granted
found his love for water and went on to become a bronze medalist in the 2008 Paralympics.
She is teary.
I am too.
It reminds me how resilient and amazing these kids of ours are.
The live auction has started.
People are bidding thousands of dollars, sometimes out bidding themselves
and suddenly I get it.
These beautiful people are giving Starlight opportunities to support hospitalised children.
They don’t necessarily want the goods for auction but they want to donate -
they want to help
and the goodness of humanity is all around me.
It’s with the friends who work hard every day to make this foundation what it is,
it’s with the Captains,
it’s with the chefs, the hospitality crew, the people who have given their time or their livelyhood,
it’s with the guests who are in this room, who love this cause, who want to make the world a better place
and I am happy being here with all of these people, wealthy or not
because we are all here for the same reason.
I sit with that for a while before the third course comes out
and I watch Dave talk about his baby girl with a new found friend,
with a mixture of sadness and pride.
Dinner is far from over and third course has been created by one of my favourite chefs – Maggie Beer,
with Hamish Ingham.
It is quite simply divine.
Rabbit, prune, pancetta and parsley root.
It’s my favourite dish of the night.
Jessica Mauboy is on the stage singing when the forth course is served.
and is a mouth watering slow cooked beef cheek with smoked milk pudding, artichokes and carrots cooked in ash.
The auction continues.
and then Ivy’s story is on the big screen.
It is very emotional watching our own journey on this unbelievable night
and I hold onto one of our Captain’s hands tightly as we and hundreds of others see how Starlight has made a difference to our family.
It’s hard to describe all of the emotions that run through my head and my heart.
Mostly, I am thankful.
The fifth and final course arrives.
I’m not exactly sure what a Shoshana with milk couverture, pear, saffron and hazelnut is
but it looks amazing and tastes better than any descriptive word I can think of.
At the end of the night a staggering amount of money raised is announced
and we thank the chefs for their work, for their love of Starlight.
In true Captain style, each chef is presented with a bunch of balloon flowers
and the night is complete.
Dave and I are so very grateful and when we escape to our room at midnight
we are both exhausted but exhilarated as well.
Sleep comes quickly but then eludes me a few hours later.
I think about the night and the generosity of people
and miss my kids
as I watch the sun rise over the Opera House.
It has all been such a wonderful experience.
As we leave the next day we meet a pianist called Michael.
He asks us our purpose for being in the city.
When we tell him, he excitedly explains that his daughter was a wish granter for Starlight many years ago.
We talk about Ivy’s wish.
As our car rolls into the circled driveway he pulls from his memory and plays perfectly
“The Dance of The Sugar Plum Fairy”
and dedicates it to the small girl without knowing that it is from her favourite ballet
and I am reminded again
that we are all connected some way in this world.