Valmai Hearn with a finished memory box that members of the Ballarat Woodworkers Guild made: Brian Rickard, Fred Townsing, Stephen Hazler and Neville Hesketh.

BALLARAT Woodworkers Guild has been making ‘memory’ or ‘angel’ boxes for the SIDS Foundation for a number of years with the goal of ensuring every hospital in Victoria has 50 boxes on hand for any SIDS or stillborn child they have to deal with.

These boxes are produced by a handful of members on a voluntary basis where the timber is cut, the boxes assembled, sanded and undercoated. They are then passed on to SIDS groups in Melbourne and Geelong. Guild member Fred Townsing estimates that over 800 boxes have been made over a period of five years.

Mr Townsing and Ron Hearn began the project after being approached by a Geelong resident. “A lady (from Geelong) approached me and she was involved with SIDS and she wanted to know if I knew anybody who could make boxes for them,” he said. “Her husband used to make them and he wasn’t too well, so I brought the idea back here and Ron and I started them off and we’ve been going ever since.”

Around fourty boxes are made at a time from donated timber and voluntary labour.

Ron and Fred were great mates with Ron driving the project until his death whereupon Fred has carried it on.

Last Monday Ron’s widow, Valmai, made a visit to the Guild, her first since Ron passed away. Valmai has also been involved with the project, making felt heart and teddy bears, which are placed inside the finished memory box. “I the beginning the boxes were stored in our garage now they are stored in this shed,” she said. “It’s a great project. All this is voluntary by the fellows here.” Once the memory or angel boxes arrive in Melbourne a finishing coat of paint – usually pink or blue is put on them, as well as motifs. The boxes are then lined with silk. “In the boxes is a little crocheted rug, a blanket, a little set of clothes, a teddy bear or a heart and a name scroll,” Mrs Hearn said.

These are then presented to respective parents who require a keepsake or ‘memory’ box for their lost children. “The families put in whatever they want and it’s a keepsake box that is given to them, it is not charged for,” Mrs Hearn added. “We have met some of these families who have received a memory box and they say it does help them with the grieving process, they say it’s wonderful and the counselor who brings the boxes in to them say they are a great help. “There are a lot of babies who pass away for one reason or another and it’s very sad. A lot more than people realize.”