When Nicki Scholes-Robertson first attended a workshop held at Armidale City Bowling Club to look at small business or charity ideas with Armidale Rotary, her idea for the 'Norm Bourke Box' was not chosen for support.
However, the bowling club was so excited about the project it decided to contribute $5000 to make up and distribute the first batch of 'Norm Bourke Boxes' to Tamworth Hospital anyway.
This provided roughly 30 boxes for people starting peritoneal dialysis.
It's a form of life-saving dialysis done in the comfort of your own home.
Armidale City Bowling Club has now been nominated as a finalist in the ClubsNSW Clubs & Community Awards for their support for this initiative.
Nicki's idea was borne out firsthand experience from being a peritoneal dialysis patient herself and identifying the need to support patients from rural, indigenous and low socio-economic backgrounds.
The mother-of-three went into renal failure at the end of 2013. She was one of the "lucky ones" with her brother donating her a kidney the following year.
Since then Nicki's initial idea, commitment and ongoing involvement has resulted in her receiving numerous awards.
Last year she was named Armidale Citizen of the Year and was a finalist in the 2021 NSW Regional Woman of the Year awards.
In 2020 she launched the Rural Kidney Association to make a difference for those suffering from the illness in rural and regional areas.
Ms Scholes -Robertson has also established support groups for patients and families of those living with Chronic Kidney Disease in Armidale and has raised thousands of dollars for the Armidale Renal Unit.
She was full of praise for the bowling club's support.
"The club, it's amazing staff and board members have been so supportive of all our initiatives over the last six years, the boxes, accommodation costs for those in need and just supporting our kidney club which meets there," Nicki said.
"We have been so grateful for the consistent support and guidance the club has provided in our journey to make things better for people with chronic kidney disease in the rural areas."
Armidale City Bowling Club CEO, Walter Sauer, said supporting the initiative was an easy decision.
"We were so excited by Nicki's proposal, we just had to jump on board," Walter said.
"This is what the club is all about, supporting the community and getting behind these kinds of initiatives.
"I can't think of anything more worthy than helping people struggling with ill health."
As the years went on, the club continued to provide financial support for the Norm Bourke Box and for monthly kidney support group meetings to be held at the Club.
In 2020, the club donated $4500 for accommodation for local patients attending dialysis training at Tamworth Hospital who were unable to afford their own accommodation.
The Norm Bourke Box initiative has now been recognised worldwide and published in international journals with the likelihood of it becoming a global standard.
By the end of this year, the initiative will provide essential supplies to all rural hospitals and teaching home dialysis across NSW.
The program continues to grow and with the support of the Armidale City Bowling Club, aims to supply 1200 boxes to everyone in NSW required to commence home Peritoneal dialysis with a Norm Bourke box by the end of 2023.
The Rural Kidney Association is also working with other clubs in the New England area to finance the development of self-contained accommodation at Tamworth hospital for families undergoing dialysis training and needing to be away from home for periods of up to 10 weeks.
The total project cost is estimated to be about $50,000.
"It's overwhelming to see how much support has come in for Nicki and the Rural Kidney Association," Walter said.
"More clubs are joining us, and the community has a strong sense of pride for what we are achieving."
The winners of the ClubsNSW Clubs & Community Awards will be announced on May 26 at the ICC in Sydney.
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