Have you ever wondered why Red Nose Day’s tagline is ‘getting silly for a serious cause’?
Red Nose’s Research & Prevention Manager, Lacey, tells us why injecting an element of fun into an otherwise taboo topic was the key to saving little lives.
Does your memory stretch all the way back to 1988? Mine does. I was in Year 8 and it was the first national Red Nose Day.
It was a new and unfamiliar concept for the community – buying merchandise to support a charity and having a day where you talk about the charity’s mission and where the community comes together.
But as my mum, Kaarene Fitzgerald AC, had been instrumental in bringing the idea to Australia, I was more familiar than most!
Mum and Dad had attended a dinner party one night in 1986 and an English couple had turned up wearing red noses.
Of course, everyone wanted to know what it was all about and they said it was for a children’s hospital fundraiser back in the UK.
Mum loved the idea and thought it would be perfect campaign to raise awareness about SIDS and fundraise for research into SIDS.
After the death of my baby brother Glenn from SIDS when he was 8 months old in 1977, my parents started the SIDS & Kids foundation, which changed my mum’s life.
Over the years the foundation tried lots of quirky fundraisers to raise money for research into sudden infant death.
The most memorable was probably a competition they held at the Melbourne Tennis Centre.
There was a brand new car in the middle of the tennis centre and people had to make a paper aeroplane, and then try and fly that aeroplane into the sunroof, and you would win the car!
But when Mum saw the red noses she thought that was an amazing idea, so she contacted the UK charity and asked if there was any trademark or rights on it globally and luckily there wasn’t.
They gave her permission to use it in Australia, and so Red Nose Day was born!
It was a big gamble in the beginning. The foundation mortgaged its office to pay for the merchandise to sell, but it paid off.
From really early on Red Nose Day really captured people’s hearts.
For so long families had carried such blame and guilt about their babies dying. My family did.
Even though I was only two and a half when Glenn died, I’ve grown up with the guilt that I should have been able to do something, too.
Red Nose Day was just such a great way to be able to talk about SIDS more widely and for bereaved parents to connect with each other and do something to honour their children.
The Red Nose Day motto – getting silly for a serious cause – the community really loved that and it became iconic.
The red nose symbolises fun. It's a childlike thing that helps bereaved families acknowledge and celebrate the babies and children they have lost.
Soon, everyone wanted to get involved, wear a red nose and even put a red nose on their cars. It became a big thing in Australia.
We raised a lot of money and that enabled us to fund a lot of research, and part of that research is Red Nose's Safe Sleep education program now, which has resulted in the reduction of SIDS by 85%.
Over the years Red Nose Day has had a lot of iterations. There’ve been comedy nights, Red Nose Day balls, and the very special Red Nose Day Remembrance Service.
For a lot of bereaved parents, the remembrance service became part of their family tradition. To go and sit and acknowledge and listen to other family stories and all hold each other in the space is such a powerful thing.
Afterwards, we all used to go out on the street and sell red noses. When The Wiggles first came on board Paul Field came down and met mum and was there for the service. We all went out for lunch afterwards and it was such a big celebration.
I’ve always been really proud of mum’s work and the opportunity it has given my siblings and I to talk about our brother Glenn.
And I’m very proud that Red Nose now continues the tradition of being led by bereaved parents, with our co-CEOs Jackie and Keren both having their own experience of loss.
What Red Nose achieved for SIDS we’re now working towards with stillbirth. Stillbirth has a similar stigma and we’re continuing the work that mum and dad did all those years ago in this area now.
Glenn dying was such a tragedy, but through Red Nose Day my mum was able to turn it around and be such a strong advocate for babies, helping to protect them, challenging the stigma, and making it OK for families to grieve.
No one wants to be part of the bereaved parent or bereaved silblings club, but when you become part of it you are embraced so lovingly.
I know that through Red Nose Day we are still able to help bereaved families walk through life holding their babies in their hearts whilst finding meaning in other parts of their lives and I’m proud to be part of it.
This year, marks the 44th anniversary of Glenn's death – he died on 10 July 1977. The very next day, on 11 July 1977, my mum and dad started the organisation that we now know as Red Nose. We continue this important work in mum's memory and in memory of all of the treasured babies and children who are no longer with us, but who live forever in our hearts.
I hope you will join me and my family for our 33rd Red Nose Day, as we get silly for a serious cause on Friday, 13 August to raise much needed funds and awareness to fund research, support families, and save little lives.