When his newborn son passed away in 2010, Garry Sillett found how that there was little in the way of support services that really understood the trauma and grief that he was experiencing. There were numerous services that were well-rehearsed in providing for mothers.
When a friend took Garry out for a game of golf to take his mind off things, Garry was inspired to create a program that offered the same kind of respite for other fathers.
Garry established Pillars Of Strength as a charity and started with a trial program based at the Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney. By working closely with doctors and staff at the hospital, Garry has established a series of measures that provide assistance to fathers during times of grief. Pillars Of Strength has been widely supported by numerous businesses, sporting organisations and community partners.
The program is based on the concept of giving fathers much-needed time-out from the burden and stress of dealing with children in intensive care. It recognises that many fathers would be reluctant to voluntarily find ways to take time out because they want to be there as support for their partner, but often the most valuable thing they can do is to take some time to refresh and have mental space for a short period.
Major features of the program include:
- supplying parking vouchers for fathers at the participating hospitals
- linking with partners to offer financial management services
- running events specifically targeted at fathers
- providing vouchers to sporting games - these require a male friend to attend which increases the peer support factor of the program
The program has increased its presence and is now in the Royal North Shore Hospital Newborn Care Centre (NICU), Royal Womens Hospital NICU Randwick and Sydney Children's Hospital.