River’s Gift, Karl

‘On the morning of Nov. 7th 2011 Alex’s and my world changed forever. Our four month old son, River Jak Adam Waddell, passed away in his sleep in what was later determined to be a SIDS event. Our first child, River was a healthy and happy baby boy, with no symptoms of any illness. He was put to bed in his cot, on his back – he was sleeping safely as per the recommended guidelines and breastfed by his Mum who didn’t drink or smoke – yet still fell victim to this devastating condition.’ We hear from Karl Waddell, General Manager of River’s Gift.

‘Out of our tragedy River’s Gift was born, to raise funds specifically for research into Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). We identified that there was a vital need for SIDS research to again be afforded the attention it deserved. Research had largely been neglected since the early 1990s, following the dramatic reduction in infant deaths as a result of Sids & Kids’ success with Red Nose Day and the funding for education about safe sleeping practices. In just over 4 ½ years River’s Gift has raised over $500,000. Over $200,000 of this has been raised through our run training programs that we host in Geelong and have recently launched in Ballarat.


The organisation has grown rapidly and is now overseen by a Board of Directors. Additionally, it is supported by an Advisory Board and a number of dedicated volunteers. Following the sale of Geelong Homes’ ‘Pledge For River’s Gift’ charity home in February 2016 and the resulting contribution of $135,000 to River’s Gift, the organisation has catapulted into its next growth phase with the appointment of its first General Manager, myself. We have over 7,500 followers on Facebook and 200 members of the Geelong and Ballarat communities that have participated in the training programs we run. Geelong Homes are River’s Gift’s Platinum Sponsor and continue to provide office space and storage space to the organisation at no cost.

River’s Gift has become Australia’s largest SIDS research funding organisation. It has funded two Australian early-career scientific researchers to undertake fellowships at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, USA. Working with the world’s leading SIDS research specialists, led by Professor Hannah Kinney, our researchers are specifically focusing on the development of neuro-diagnostic methods to allow the identification of infants who may have a vulnerability to SIDS. This research promotes the enhancement of awareness across the globe.

In the face of tragedy, we feel blessed to have had the opportunity to form a charitable organisation in honour of our son, River. Since River’s passing, we’ve been blessed with two beautiful children. Our daughter Shiloh is 4 years old and our son Bodhi is 16 months old.

The voice we hold amongst the global community would never have become so poignant and powerful if it wasn’t for the people of Geelong supporting River’s Gift as they do. Whether by participating in our community events (Golf Day/Kokoda Trek /Charity Gala Ball/Run Training Programs/Run Events to mention a few!), volunteering to assist us at events or dropping a few coins in our coin collection tins around town, River’s Gift welcomes everyone to be involved and become a part of our organisation; one that’s creating ripples of positivity and hope across the globe! www.facebook.com/RiversGift/