Learning your child has a life threatening illness, is surely one of the worst days a parent can have.
And many parents face the added pressure of having to move their family thousands of kilometres away for medical treatment.
“I remember opening the front door to a family one night,” recalled Bec Stott, Manager of Funding for Ronald Mcdonald House, Perth. “Their child was undergoing brain surgery and they’d been told to check in at Ronald McDonald House, as there was nothing they could do at the hospital,” she said. “When we opened the door to their room, you could see the weight being lifted from their shoulders.”
Supported by numerous donors including BHP, the free service includes a hot meal every night, after school help for the sick child and siblings and importantly, a supportive environment in the toughest of times.
As one family told Bec, “It is hard enough dealing with sick children, let alone trying to source a place to stay for the whole family that is suitable, safe and close to the hospital. We have had to make weekly trips to Perth from Broome for our daughter’s cancer treatment and knowing we have Ronald McDonald House to stay at takes away sooooo much stress”.
The sad reality is that more and more families need to use places like Ronald McDonald House. In 2012, due to increased demand, a lightning fast fund-raising campaign resulted in $27 million dollars being raised, of which BHP contributed $5 million. With funding from supporters like BHP, a new house was built and opened in 2015.
The new Ronald McDonald House has 47 rooms, an extra 29 from the old house. It also has improved facilities including a dining room, kitchen facilities, learning centre and even a rooftop fairy garden.
According to another parent, “The team of volunteers in the onsite learning centre make it so enjoyable for the kids and the extracurricular activity/support for them is so advantageous, after missing so much school”.
Having parents go through the same thing under the one roof provides important emotional support with families on a similar journey. “Most people make friends for life here, as they are all worried about the same thing, their child's health,” said Bec.
One family member wrote to Bec saying “All the staff have been so welcoming and supportive and we are going to miss everyone when we are finally allowed to go home. Thank you Ronald McDonald House Perth”.
According to Bec, “The lives of these families are often changed in an instant. They might be plucked out of a town like Port Hedland and told they have to stay with us for eight months because their child has a brain tumor. So with the help of more than 300 volunteers, our job is to make sure they get more than a bed and a roof over their head, it really is a home away from home”.