Ron Delezio almost lost his daughter twice in two separate tragic accidents but the Australia Day Ambassador counts himself as one of the lucky ones as she is still alive.
Mr Delezio told the large crowd gathered at Rowers Park for Australia Day that he came across parents in hospital who had to turn off their child’s life support.
His message on Australia Day was about hope, faith and staying strong for his family.
Mr Delezio will never forget the day he received a phone call that his daughter, Sophie who was two and a half years old at the time, had been in a terrible accident.
It was the year 2003 and Sophie was trapped under a burning car which had crashed into her childcare centre in Sydney.
He and his wife, Carolyn, were told by doctors to prepare themselves for seeing their daughter’s injuries.
“They said it looks like your daughter has been in a war zone and that she has trodden on a landmine,” he said.
“You can imagine the feeling my wife and I had, it was just devastating.”
Sophie suffered extensive injuries, as well as third and fourth degree burns to 85 per cent of her body.
Mr Delezio said in the first nine days, five children in the ICU ward had died and the couple were always wondering if their daughter would be next.
At one stage the couple were asked by doctors if they should turn off Sophie’s life support.
However, the Catholic family stood strong and had faith that Sophie would pull through and that she did.
“I can still say that we are one of the lucky ones because there are a lot of others who weren’t so lucky with their kids,” Mr Delezio said.
Tragedy struck the family two years later when Sophie was hit by a vehicle at a pedestrian crossing and suffered multiple broken bones, as well as a brain injury.
This time Sophie and her family spent six and a half weeks in hospital, a considerable shorter period than the first time when they remained by Sophie’s bedside for six and a half months.
The family had seen so much in hospital and were beyond thankful for the work of the doctors and hospital staff that the couple wanted to do something in return.
They established the Day of Difference Foundation to help critically injured children and their families.
The foundation has raised more than $14 million for urgently needed hospital equipment and research.
It has evolved to also offer family support programs to help the needs of families of critically injured children in hospitals around Australia.
Mr Delezio said it was a privilege to be in his eleventh year as an Australia Day Ambassador and described Corowa as “truly magnificent”.
“I believe Australia is the best country in the world and I look forward to celebrating here with you all today,” he said.