Fundraising Manager of Variety – the Children’s Charity WA Katie O’Donnell has received the Community Service Award at the 2018 Curtin Alumni Achievement Awards for spearheading fundraisers for sick, disadvantaged or special needs children.
O’Donnell devised this year’s ‘Silence the CEO’ fundraiser, an initiative where CEOs and government leaders were challenged to take a vow of silence for a day and encouraged to raise funds for children with complex communication needs. The initiative raised $26,000.
Her fundraising repertoire includes developing the annual Variety of Choice Home Lottery, which offers participants the chance to win a major house prize worth $1 million, and the annual Variety Christmas Toy Drive, which collects more than $30,000-worth of new toys each year.
This year there were two recipients of the Community Service Award at the 2018 Curtin Alumni Achievement Awards, with O’Donnell awarded alongside health sciences graduate Gloria Sutherland, a former director of the Kimberley Population Health Unit at the WA Department of Health.
O’Donnell says that while she is proud to be recognised alongside such high calibre recipients, teamwork is the key to her success.
“It was such an honour, but I still don’t feel worthy. I’m simply doing what I love and ultimately I am just an employee – it’s the volunteers and donors who deserve all the credit.”
O’Donnell is no stranger to Variety WA’s life-changing support.
The organisation helped her to pursue her passion for singing as a teenager – awarding her a Variety scholarship and inviting her to become an inaugural member of the Variety Youth Choir – after she was diagnosed with a rare form of muscular dystrophy that hindered her mobility.
Although she no longer performs with the choir, O’Donnell continues to be involved in a supporting capacity.
“Being involved with Variety as a recipient of their support inspired me to pursue a career in the not-for-profit sector. I know from first-hand experience what a difference Variety makes in kids’ lives and it’s a huge privilege to be a part of that.
“It’s always amazing to see the confidence and talents of members evolve from when they first join the choir to when they are ready to leave. The best moments in a choir aren’t just on stage, they are every week at rehearsals when you see the friendships and fun unfold.”
O’Donnell has held five positions at Variety WA since graduating from Curtin with a Bachelor of Arts (Mass Communication).
She says the degree, which encompassed communications, journalism, marketing and public relations, has been the perfect foundation for her career.
“In the not-for-profit sector, resources are always stretched and you frequently have to wear multiple hats within an organisation. My degree gave me a very solid base with a broad range of skills that meant I could jump in and start applying!”
To any university students with a physical disability, O’Donnell offers the following advice:
“Be brave and ask for help. I was very young when I started at Curtin and it was extremely daunting to leave the shelter of high school and go into the Bentley Campus. It didn’t take long to settle in and make new friends, and develop a new level of independence and confidence.”
Name: Katie O’Donnell
Role: Fundraising Manager, Variety – Children’s Charity WA
Studied: Bachelor of Arts (Mass Communication)