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Community groups to benefit
Telethon support for the Superfins club has helped children with physical and intellectual disabilities learn to swim. Picture: Lee Griffith / The West Australian.

More than 50 organisations and thousands of WA's sick, struggling or impaired children will benefit from the millions of dollars donated to Telethon this year.

While the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, Telethon Speech and Hearing Centre and Princess Margaret Hospital will be the main beneficiaries, dozens of much smaller and lesser known local organisations will also receive donations.

Since 1994, Telethon has given more than $20 million in grants to PMH for the acquisition of medical equipment, specialist facilities and research fellowships. Beneficiaries as diverse as the Kununurra District Health Service, Camp Autism and the Lions Eye Institute have also received assistance.

The difference each dollar makes to the quality of life of our sick children on a daily basis is immeasurable.

The co-ordinator of Project KIDS, based out of the neurocognitive development unit at the University of WA, described this year as a "turning point" for the group in its first year of involvement with Telethon.

Dr Corinne Reid said the Telethon grant had enabled the unit to become more "kid-friendly" and less like the hospital environments many of the children were used to.

Project KIDS uses brain imaging and other technology to try to understand why some youngsters struggle at school and in life in ways that aren't always obvious to parents and teachers.

"For many years we've focused on more basic, experimental research and this has really opened it up," Dr Reid said.

"Already in the space of a year we've got equipment that has allowed us to do so many more things and to look at brain function in so much more detail than we've ever been able to do before.

"At the same time we're exploring new ways of treating learning problems that we've never been able to try before in the form of brain training computer games."

For disabled swimming club Superfins, Telethon's support has been invaluable. The club runs programs which teach disabled children how to swim and supports them through a range of swimming levels right through to an international standard. "Telethon's support has certainly allowed us to expand our programs," chairwoman Janice Saunders said.

The vast range of Telethon's reach is reflected in its support of Foodbank WA's breakfast program, which feeds 15,000 school kids stretching from the Kimberley to the Great Southern regions each week.

Foodbank's Rex Milligan said the program helped boost school attendance and provided a nutritious start to the day for students.