The Vincentian spirit is alive and well, giving a gentle hand up to people in need right across our country, every day.

Kathy Jones is a 47-year-old single mother of three girls, Shannon 15-years, Jaime 13-years and Zoe 11-years. They live together in Greensborough in suburban Melbourne and enjoy simple family pleasures - tennis, nattering about Shannon’s first job, lively dinners, and compulsory daily cuddles.

There’s a lot of love in their house, but two years ago their love was tested. Kathy was working four days a week and at the recommendation of a workplace public health campaign, undertook a routine medical procedure. It left her paralysed and unable to move. A one-in-a-million viral reaction that rendered her completely unable to care for herself and her children.

“I thought I was dying, it was just slowly taking over my whole body. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t swallow, I couldn’t close my eyes. It affected me head to toe in two weeks,” said Kathy.

She was hospitalised for six months, before defiantly returning home to be with her three daughters. She had the promise of daily support from loved ones, so she could feed herself, do the washing, and take the kids to school; but her dignity and independence were gone. Kathy was also now living off Newstart payments alone.

“Going from being an energetic single mum, working, and running kids around to sports, to being taken away from them for six months was a horrible, horrible thing to have to live through. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone,” said Kathy.

How did Vinnies help?

Help started in the form of a home visit from the St Vincent de Paul Society last year. Members of the Greensborough Conference heard about Kathy’s hardship and launched into action with the #WalkWithKathy campaign.

“Vinnies has really been wonderful. They came in when I was really hitting rock bottom. It’s been a struggle to get through week to week and to know that they’re there and offering assistance is just incredible,” said Kathy.

Diamond Valley Regional President, John Ellis, recalled his first encounter with Kathy with a tear in his eye.

“Listening to her story was quite emotional. I couldn’t believe that someone like Kathy had fallen through the cracks. When you hear the story you think how on earth did that happen?” he said.

Thankfully, the conference had the means to help, thanks to their efforts hosting a Vinnies Community Sleepout in 2016.

“We took it one step at a time and decided that the first major thing we could do would be help with the rent,” said John.

The emotional, psychological and financial repercussions of this tragic illness are still wearing Kathy’s family down, so the conference is now taking one step further to encourage Victorians to #WalkWithKathy and show their support too.

“Whenever the day is that Kathy walks ten steps by herself, I want to be there at the end of those ten steps to give her a hug,” said John.

Photo caption (above): Kathy Jones (center) with her daughters and family friends. From left, Robert Paolacci, St Vincent de Paul Society volunteer Kevin McMahon, Shannon Jones, Tonia Frost, Kathy Jones, Jenny Ring, Jaime Jones, Shannon Jones and St Vincent de Paul Society volunteer John Ellis.

How to get involved