Rio’s Legacy recognised for hospice funding efforts

The Fowlers had steadfastly refused five times in five weeks to say their final goodbyes as Rio battled a rare artery disorder that doctors believe was the first case in a child.

They could not face the idea of giving up and handing him over to palliative care.

“He was adorable, a chunky little thing, I didn’t want him to go, we went into hospital one day thinking he had gastric and never came out,” said Mrs Fowler.

Ryan Fowler and Karen Fowler with their Pride of Australia medals. Picture: Richard Dobson


Earlier this year, Rio lost his battle with the disease 17 months into his young life Bear Cottage in Manly, dedicated to caring for children with life-limiting conditions.

In a courageous turnaround, the Fowlers have dedicated their lives to fundraising for more children’s hospices after learning there are only three palliative care homes for dying children in Australia.

Their mission to raise enough funds to open more hospice beds each state yesterday earned them a Pride of Australia medal.

The Fowlers will now dedicate their lives to raise funds to open more hospice beds in Rio’s honour. Picture: Supplied
Rio, 17-months-old, sadly lost his battle with a rare artery disorder. Picture: Supplied

“We do not do paediatric death well in Australia, said Mrs Fowler at the annual awards ceremony at News Corp offices in Surry Hills, Sydney.

“Children shouldn’t get sick but they do, we did not want Rio to go into care but he had to, we thought he’d get better but he really deteriorated.

“We had a traumatic time in hospital. He looked fine, we had no idea. I was in hospital, thinking, am I dreaming?

“I remember sitting in a white room with the surgeons saying ‘we’ve opened your boy up and never seen anything like it.’

“Bear Cottage allowed us to be a family and helped Rio’s older sister Remi who is five to cope. “We want his life to benefit others by opening other centres like it.”

Mr Fowler ran 1013km from Melbourne to Sydney in October to raise awareness of the country’s shortage of children’s hospice beds.

The Fowlers, who were nominated by Seven News presenter Mark Ferguson, spoke passionately about their cause at the ceremony yesterday. Picture: Richard Dobson

“Kids dying is not an easy thing, I’m very proud of my husband for saying, let’s make a charity and let’s make his life benefit others.”

Channel 7 News presenter Mark Ferguson, who nominated them for a medal, said from the tragedy came “a wonderful response”.

“As a father myself, if I went through what Ryan and Karen went through, I might have curled up in a ball in my room, not able to leave the house,” he said.

“What they did in response was to fight back in Rio’s memory, to go out into the community and try their very best to raise as much money as possible to build more hospices.”

You can help by donating at

This post was published by the Daily Telegraph.

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