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A legacy for Sophie: a day of difference

A Day of Difference: supporting critically injured children online

Many have heard about Sophie Delezio, the brave girl who survived two dreadful accidents. Fewer perhaps have heard about the incredible work of the Day of Difference Foundation, a charity inspired by Sophie that supports critically injured children and their families. Rachel Eldred explores how the charity’s online channels, including dayofdifference.org.au, have been helping to spread the message.

“There are thousands of Sophies out there,” says Ron Delezio, Sophie Delezio’s father, and founder and CEO of the charity, Day of Difference. The challenge is to raise awareness and generate financial support to ensure the work done by Day of Difference can continue. (See box ‘How Day of Difference helps’, p 25.) Over the past half-decade since the charity was launched, its website, dayofdifference.org.au, has evolved from an online brochure to become an essential channel for the charity to raise funds and awareness.

“Day of Difference went online in 2004,” says Casey Hines, business development manager at Day of Difference. “It started as a very basic, non-interactive page. It’s since evolved into the interactive site we have today, which was launched in June 2009.”

Casey says the site took nine months to build “in earnest” with a few challenges along the way.

“Translating the concept into reality was our biggest challenge,” says Casey. “We knew what we wanted and we quickly learned not to reinvent the wheel, to leverage those things out there that already work. For example, Live Wire has a great forum and chat room functionality, and perfectly serves people affected by critical injury. We brought that into our site, instead of creating it from scratch.

“We also quickly learned that we had to be prepared to mold out-of-the-box functionality. We compromised where we could, but we did not sacrifice our end goal.”

From little things, big things grow

To begin with, the site averaged a few dozen visitors a month. Today, it receives 11,500 visitors a month. Day-to-day management of the website has therefore also changed – considerably.

“We spend about 30 hours per week on the site,” says Casey. “That includes everything from content updates, our responses to media reports, PR, copywriting, product fulfillment, donations, and social media. It’s so much easier today to make changes. Back when it was a static page, we had to make changes in Word then send them to the vendor. Now we can just make those changes ourselves. PowerFront created and hosts the site and Secure Pay takes care of the payment processing. The CEO message on the home page was produced by Speex and is hosted by Viocorp.”

“Facebook is working well – a lot of stay-at-home mums are on Facebook … a key part of our supporter base”

The new website also includes an e-commerce channel. Casey says that although it took a while to set up, the benefits are already noticeable.

“It took a while to simplify the donation process because we had to rely on out-of-the-box functionality. Initially, when you made a donation, you were asked for a shipping address, which created a great deal of confusion. Luckily, we found a way to reduce the number of steps and make the process very simple.

“We’ve also set up our online shop. The functionality is right, we just need to make sure we have a selection of products on there that people want to buy.

“One of the things that have been very successful online is people buying tickets to our special events, like our upcoming golf day. More people have bought online than off.”

The website has also allowed Day of Difference to create positive initiatives with partners. One initiative is with Flowers for Everyone. Flowers can be purchased online and a percentage of the sale goes directly to the charity. Casey says there is a lot of potentials to do great work with other partners to create win-win situations. Day of Difference is presently working on a partnership with belle & peace jewelry, to help attract new supporters to the cause.

Social media brings people to the cause

“Facebook is working well,” says Casey. “A lot of stay-at-home mums are on Facebook and they represent a key part of our supporter base. Twitter needs more time. We’re planning to do a CEO blog and use Twitter to drive people to that, where they can find out about Day of Difference, the charity, and also about Sophie Delezio. People are interested to hear about her progress.”

In early February 2010, Day of Difference launched a six-month e-marketing awareness campaign in partnership with V3. Ads feature prominently on some of the biggest sites in Australia: smh.com.au, news.com.au, standard.net.au, and weather.com.au. The focus for the first three months is on awareness and driving people to the Day of Difference site to make a donation. The following three months will focus on education: Day of Difference will offer services on what to do if a child is critically injured, because, says Casey, “in the heat of the moment, steps can be taken to help a critically injured child”.

“At the moment, mail out is the best way to solicit donations,” says Ron Delezio. “But we believe the electronic media will soon take over. It’s cheaper for us and it won’t be long before it’s more effective.”

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How day of difference helps

Ron Delezio, founder and CEO of Day of Difference, explains the multiple ways the charity helps critically injured children:

  • Medical: “We support medical research and supply urgently needed medical equipment to hospitals, so that the crucial time after a child is critically injured can be managed quickly and appropriately.”
  • Emotional: “Our charity also offers family support. When a child is critically injured, family members are thrust into a world of sleep deprivation, stress and anxiety. What happens to the mortgage? Jobs? Doctors use terms and drugs they don’t understand or haven’t heard about. It is so important that they are given the best opportunity to love, care and support the child. We try to take care of the practical concerns, so family members can focus on the child. We also provide music and play therapy, which is so important. Not only for the children, but for family members, too. It’s uplifting for parents to see a child’s response to music and play, when they haven’t been able to respond to anything else.”
  • Intellectual: “Education is also a major focus. We provide information on how to keep children safe and we go into schools and talk about difference. We teach that it’s OK to be different, that we are the same on the inside. It’s very important because kids with disabilities need to be part of the school system, not segregated from it.”

In the next five years, Ron Delezio would like to see a Day of Difference liaison person in every children’s hospital in Australia: “Someone who can directly support family members, while they focus on the needs of the child. Also, a music and play teacher. The successes they have with critically injured children are invaluable.” #

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