As a Mamma, I’m not sure there is anything more inspiring than a fellow Mamma who has lost a child and gone on from that darkness to change the world. Even more inspiring is when this is done so humbly, generously and honestly. Catherine Hughes lost her precious little Riley (pictured) to a vaccine preventable disease, whooping cough. Catherine and her husband have made it their mission, and Riley’s legacy, to raise awareness about whooping cough and vaccine preventable disease. I hope that by sharing a little of their story we can all help them with this mission.
Inspired by… Catherine Hughes
Extra-ordinary humans | Living their lives with JOY | Changing the world around them |
Where in the world do you call home?
Claremont in Perth, Western Australia.
Describe your home and neighbourhood and the best thing about living there:
We live in a tiny two bedroom apartment overlooking the Swan River, surrounded by leafy green trees. It’s small and cosy, but it’s a lovely area. My favourite thing about living here is the jetty down the road; when you stand at the end of it you feel like you’re standing in the middle of this huge river. It’s always so peaceful!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words:
Kind, brave, control-freak!
If you could choose one super power what would it be?
To be able to freeze time. Then I would never feel guilt about all the things I need to do, could be doing and should be doing. I could just enjoy things more if I wasn’t so worried about the clock!
What is the name of your passion project?
What is the purpose at the heart of Light for Riley?
We don’t want anyone to go through what our baby son Riley experienced – dying from a vaccine-preventable disease (in his case, whooping cough). Riley was too young for his own vaccinations, and pregnancy vaccination programs were only rolled out right after Riley’s death. When he was in my arms for that last time, I promised him that I would do everything I could to make sure this didn’t happen to other babies/children. In a country as lucky as ours, I truly believe with all my heart that our children should not die from these sorts of preventable diseases.
So the heart of our project is our son – I can’t spend time holding him, but I can spend my time doing this for him, and for other babies who don’t have a voice.
If you could choose any celebrity to become the Ambassador for Light for Riley who would you choose and why?
Leonardo DiCaprio. Mostly because I’ve always had a thing for him! But also because he is so passionate about everything that he believes in, and people listen.
What do you think is the most important thing for us to teach the children of our generation?
I think children need to learn to “ask for evidence”. With the internet, anything can be presented as a fact and unfortunately many people accept this without looking for the evidence behind the statement. Critical thinking is so important at any age!
What do you consider essential to your mental and physical wellbeing?
Cuddling, plenty of sleep, careful planning, going outside, spending time with different people.
How do you take care of yourself amongst the busy demands of daily life?
This is very much a work in progress! I feel like I’m juggling many balls and not quite keeping up with some things (housework, fitness…). Every night I have a bath to unwind and relax, and I try to get enough sleep or else I get snappy!
Is there a charity or cause that you are currently aligned with or that you are planning to support through your work in the future?
We have largely worked with two charities – the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation (the hospital that Riley passed away in), where we fundraise for whooping cough research, and UNICEF Australia, where we encourage our supporters to purchase vaccines for babies & children in developing countries. So far we have raised $75,000 for research and have encouraged the donation of more than 100,000 vaccines which I am so grateful for!
The link to our whooping cough research fundraiser can be found HERE
What has been your greatest lesson in life so far?
Learning to live without my child. It has been the toughest and most heartbreaking situation I’ve ever been in. I didn’t choose this, and I desperately wish this didn’t happen. But it did, so I can either mope around and hate my life, or I can do something with my life and try to be happy. I choose the latter. My philosophy now is that my son didn’t get a chance to enjoy many things in life, he only had 32 days on this earth, so I’m not going to waste mine. I will live it with meaning and joy for the both of us.
What is your best advice for anyone else who has a dream to be extra-ordinary or someone who wants to turn their own loss or tragedy into something to light the way for others?
For those who have had a similar experience to us, a tragedy, each experience is so unique – so my advice may not work for others! We found our advocacy helped us honour our child in a meaningful way, helped get us out of bed each morning, gave our new life a new purpose, and helped us work on a common goal as a family. Be gentle on yourself, and be gentle on your partner and family.
Sweet treat: French Macarons
Holiday destination: Margaret River, WA
Memory: The days I met my husband and children!
Magazine: These awful UK magazines that have shocking trashy stories. Best entertainment on long plane flights!
Online store: Coles – not very exciting! But it is exciting to have groceries arrive at the door.
‘Thank you’ does not seem like quite enough for all that you are doing in the world Catherine ..