New chapter: Little Russell starts primary school journey
Thousands of students walked through the school gates today for the first time this year, but it was a particularly special moment for one Bundaberg family.
The region first developed a soft spot for little Russell Foody in 2015, when at just three-months-old he was diagnosed with glaucoma and faced the threat of permanently losing his sight.
With support from the community and his family, the young warrior was able to undergo an operation that avoided that outcome and now Russell is starting his first year of school as a prep student.
"I tried to hold it together in front of him but I cried when I walked out because after everything he's been through at such a young age, he's all grown up and now my baby boy is at school," Russell's mum Alley Hawtion said.
"It was hard to get him out of bed this morning but once he saw his friend from daycare at school, his little face just lit up."
Describing her youngest child as cheeky, kind and a little boy with the biggest heart, Ms Hawtion said Russell has come a long way since his diagnosis.
"His doctor said Russell had to have the operation or he could have gone blind by the age of one … as any parent would be, I was worried but I would have loved and been there for him all the same," she said.
"It's a lot better now - he has low vision loss in both eyes and tunnel and peripheral vision … he does need to wear his glasses for reading, writing and when watching TV, but he's not on eye drops anymore which is good."
Following in the footsteps of his four older brothers, Russell is enrolled at Kalkie State School and loves riding on his scooter and playing outside.
"Kalkie is such a great school - the prep room gave parents a little bag with tissues and chocolates, which I thought was fantastic because I definitely needed the tissues for when I left," Ms Hawtion said.
"He's looking forward to being a big boy now, going to school with his older siblings and eventually playing with his big brothers."