GOOD FRIDAY APPEAL: Benji is Shane’s reason to give

BEING the father of a premature baby was the most terrifying moment of a Wodonga man’s life.

Shane O’Toole remembers waiting and hoping his son Benji — born 13 weeks premature at 27 weeks and weighing just 950 grams — would find a way to survive.

Benji is now three years old.

“It’s still hard to talk about,” Mr O’Toole said.

“We were told we had to take it hour by hour, — he was hooked up to machines.”

Benji was transferred to Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital after his birth in Canberra.

Benji’s mother Prue Hethrington and Mr O’Toole spent many anxious months while their son was in hospital, desperate for him to function on his own.

Mr O’Toole had some words of advice to other parents of premature babies.

“You have to have faith and trust in the doctors,” he said.

“If it wasn’t for them and the support we had he wouldn’t be here.”

Mr O’Toole donates to the Royal Children’s Good Friday appeal every year and this year he has gone a step further.

The Bradken employee is now a volunteer firefighter with Wodonga CFA and will be out collecting money on the big day this week.

“I have put my name down to help out all day,” he said.

Albury and district appeal manager Brett Perston, from Albury Rotary Club, said this year’s goal for both sides of the border was $150,000.

He said sirens would be sounded from 8am.

“We will make heaps of noise, urging people to dig deep,” Mr Perston said.

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