Rio’s Challenge of Hope 2021
From June 28 till July 16, one of my closest mates, Ryan Fowler, will have ridden and run a total of 1061kms.
As Ryan often said throughout this journey, “It’s all for the kids.”
The charity Ryan began, Rio’s Legacy, embarked on its biggest challenge to date. Fundraising for Perth’s Children Hospital Foundation, Rio’s Challenge of Hope saw Ryan run and ride across WA to raise funds for the construction of WA’s first children’s hospice. At the time of writing, $78,320.47 had been raised.
Over 21 days, Rio’s Challenge of Hope honoured the 2,000 WA kids and their families who will stand to benefit from this much needed, ‘home away from home’ hospice facility.
As a mate, it was hard to watch him go through this emotional journey. It is tough viewing, but necessary viewing to watch his video posts on Facebook and Instagram.
His body has got that little bit older and has started to break down (sorry brother!); in 2020, they were unable to even start this challenge due to a snap border closure due to COVID (after they had landed in WA!); remembering his Mum’s life (her birthday occurred during the challenge) and the life of his dear son Rio, I see the heavy toll on my mate.
But Ryan reminds us every day through this challenge, that in these uncertain times, these children with life limiting illnesses live with uncertainty everyday. They must tough it out every day. When he is hurting, emotional and struggling in the challenge, it is the memory of his son and these kids that keep him going.
And Rio's Legacy hopes to show the nation that no matter how long or short the journey is for these kids; their stories will not be forgotten.
The Fowler’s story- the life of Rio
Their son Rio was admitted to hospital after his 3rd presentation to the emergency department on the 9th November 2017 due to reoccurring gastro. Unfortunately, Rio did not recover and despite 40 nights in hospital, never returned home. Rio’s episode of gastro and the severe symptoms associated accelerated an underlying condition that Paediatric Doctors informed them they had never seen before. Doctors believed that what Rio was diagnosed with was so rare, he potentially was the first/only child in the world to have it. Pathology and genetics teams worked vigilantly to find answers for them and sent samples overseas to no avail.
Rio was eventually diagnosed with an Arterial Vasculopathy disease/condition. Rio’s arteries failed to supply enough blood to all his major organs and the blood vessels around his body. Despite major aggressive medical intervention, they were eventually told that his condition would progress and his body would progressively shut down.
During his time in hospital, Rio survived 5 major surgeries, including 2 amputations (high thigh and hindquarter), kidney (renal) failure, heart impairment and failure and consistently high blood pressure readings (250 systolic over 180 diastolic); to then only be told that he had a terminal condition due to his arterial malformations.
Though his condition was diagnosed as terminal, Rio continued to inspire us all with his smile, fight and will to never give up. He made the most of every moment, engaging in play, dancing and asking for chocolate when he was well enough.
From Christmas 2017 onwards, Rio’s condition continued to deteriorate and after being transferred to The Bear Cottage, Manly NSW, which is an end of life/respite hospice for children, Rio’s courageous and brave fight came to end on the 15th January 2018. He was a beautiful little boy who will be forever loved and dearly missed.
Turning grief into a message of hope
Ryan and Karen used this tragedy and their grief to make a difference.
As a consequence, Rio’s Legacy was launched as a charity in Australia by The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) on 1st March 2018.
Rio’s Legacy is the only charity in Australia, whose focus is to help, promote awareness and look to see more hospices built across Australia, due to the lack of children’s hospices for children with a terminal illness (only three hospices of this nature in Australia). Their vision is to see at least one per state for all families to access if required/needed.
Ryan and Karen Fowler were awarded a 2018 Pride of Australia Medal for the charity’s work in this area.
In May 2018, Rio’s Legacy made a $10,000 donation to Bear Cottage to purchase a medical bed (first of its kind) for children in need of assist whilst staying at Bear Cottage. Part of the $10,000 donation also went towards the building of a memorial site for all the 500 children who have come through the doors of Bear Cottage.
In October 2018, Rio's Legacy completed a 1027km run from Melbourne to Sydney to raise funds and awareness for the plight of terminally ill children. The run called “Rio’s Run”, which took 26 days and averaged about 40.6km a day generated much support and following from local groups and people as it passed through many small villages and towns on its way to Sydney. Over $54K was generated through the run alone.
In October 2019, Rio’s Legacy completed a 2,388km charity ride from Adelaide to Sydney, via Melbourne and Hobart. Rio’s Ride took 17 days (consecutively) and generated much support and following from State Governments and local groups, as it passed through 4 states (SA, VIC, TAS and NSW). Over $60K was generated through the ride, with important contacts and links made with State Governments in building more hospices to care for children with a terminal illness nationally.
Fearfully and wonderfully made
In the book of Psalms chapter 139 verses 13 – 16, this speaks of how God creates individuals uniquely to fulfil their own destiny:
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
But the journey continues for Rio’s Legacy in achieving its goal of creating awareness and building new hospices for terminally ill children across Australia.
With this as our constant reminder, Rio’s Legacy strives to hold true this Scripture and help those most in need, because all humans are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Together we can make a difference…
(Information taken from: http://rioslegacy.org.au/)
Russell Modlin teaches English and Physical Education at a Christian School on the Sunshine Coast. He is married to Belinda and they have three children.
Russell Modlin’s archive of previous article can be found at www.pressserviceinternational.org/russell-modlin.html