WA families were given more than 20 million reasons to smile yesterday as Telethon handed out grants to improve the lives of sick and disadvantaged children.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who donated $2 million on behalf of the Federal Government, attended a ceremony to recognise 41 groups, charities and medical facilities. Each does vital work for the welfare of children and youth in WA and globally.
The groups applied for funding for programs and research and applications were approved after rigorous assessments.
Mr Abbott joined Channel Seven Telethon Trust chairman Kerry Stokes at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre to hand over cheques and thank WA for raising a record $20,701,272.
"Living is giving and the more you give the more you live," Mr Abbott said. "It is an extraordinary privilege to be part of a country that has such a good heart."
Mr Stokes said Mr Abbott helped set an example for continued generosity to Telethon.
He recalled the first Telethon in 1968, which raised $104,000. Since then, Telethon has raised $154,470,054 and become an integral part of the WA community.
"The importance Telethon plays in our community is way beyond being a collector of money," he said. "It is about helping people help themselves. No other State gives like this. We have grown up with a culture that has encouraged giving and we feel good about doing it."
He said it was a sad day in December when Telethon raised more than ever but was still $6 million short of helping everyone who needed it.
"This year, we're going to try to help everybody," Mr Stokes said.
Telethon's Million Dollar Partners, who donated $1 million or more last year, were recognised and Mr Stokes praised rival media firms for their support. Radio station 92.9 was a major donor, raising more than $500,000.
Little Telethon Stars Jack Day and Tahlia Polmear lit up the crowd recalling the Telethon weekend in October. "It was great to make such a difference to so many lives," Jack, who has cerebral palsy, said.
Leukaemia patient Tahlia, who was thrilled when the record fell, said: "I think the money raised will go up because I watch it every year and it always goes up."
Earlier, Mr Abbott toured the Telethon Kids Institute with director Jonathan Carapetis.
He watched Isobel Donaldson, 8, of Winthrop, blow into a lung function machine, which charts her treatment for cystic fibrosis.
"The money Telethon raises keeps all the equipment up to date and lets us have access to all the new techniques. It's pivotal," Isobel's mother Christine said.
Mr Abbott also talked to staff from the Aboriginal Research Development Unit about the need for a national approach to foetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
Professor Carapetis welcomed Mr Abbott's wish to be "Prime Minister for medical research".
"It's through research that we'll come up with the answers to those great challenges . . . to deal with what all of us want - our health," he said.