Home away from home

Waitaki Herald - - FRONT PAGE - By NI­COLA WOLFE

When Mark and Kim Kennedy stayed at Ron­ald McDon­ald House with their chil­dren last year, one thing caught their at­ten­tion.

‘‘There was a woman there who looked a rough as an old boot and she was sit­ting at a ta­ble with a woman like me and a woman from Glo­ri­avale,’’ Kim said.

‘‘There’s no prej­u­dice [at Ron­ald McDon­ald House]. Whether you are in Glo­ri­avale dress, from the North Is­land or the South Is­land, rich or poor, ev­ery­one is there for the same rea­son.’’

The Kennedys have stayed at the house in Christchurch sev­eral times in the last three years with their son Cooper, 7, who has a num­ber of health is­sues.

Cooper, who was oxy­gen de­prived at birth, has hy­poxic brain in­jury, cere­bral palsy, global devel­op­ment de­lay, vis­ual im­pair­ment, mi­cro­cephaly and seizures, and needs regular surg­eries and spe­cial­ist ap­point­ments.

The Kennedys also have a daugh­ter, Ben­nette, 5.

Some ap­point­ments last all day so the house has be­come a homeaway-from-home of sorts for the fam­ily.

The house, in walk­ing dis­tance to Christchurch Hos­pi­tal, is for chil­dren and their fam­i­lies as they jour­ney through ill­ness.

It has three floors and can sleep up to 26 fam­i­lies a night. A team look af­ter its day to day run­ning.

Some fam­i­lies stay for a few days while oth­ers stay for months.

‘‘We once stayed in a room the size of a large mo­tel unit. But there are also smaller rooms. It’s beau­ti­fully fur­nished,’’ Kim said.

‘‘There’s an arts and crafts room for the kids. A communal lounge and a sep­a­rate lounge for adults. A kitchen big­ger than my house. A lit­tle like a Masterchef kitchen with sev­eral ovens so each fam­ily can cook their own meals. All the food is do­nated. There’s also an in­door McDon­alds play area – that’s how big it is.

‘‘ It’s a com­mu­nity home so every­body plays their part. We made play dough once, be­cause there wasn’t any, and left it when we left. It’s nice to pay it for­ward so to speak.’’

For Ben­nette the house is an op­por­tu­nity to have a ‘‘nor­mal’’ day while one of the par­ents is at the hos­pi­tal with Cooper.

‘‘You can’t stay at the hos­pi­tal all day, so the house is a good place for Ben­nette to be her­self. It’s like a hol­i­day. It’s made to feel fun for them,’’ Kim said.

It has a play­ground and lots to do out­side in­clud­ing bikes and scoot­ers, Mark said.

It is a fa­cil­ity all the com­mu­nity gets be­hind.

‘‘An ac­coun­tancy firm came in and put on a meal [for all the fam­i­lies]. The next day it was a group called The Golden Oldies and then the next day [the staff from] Pak ‘n Save cooked us brekkie,’’ he said.

There is also a group of beau­ti­cians who come in to give the fam­i­lies man­i­cures and hair cuts.

It is also good to be with other fam­i­lies and par­ents who are go­ing through the same thing.

‘‘Every­body is re­spect­ful of what ev­ery­one else is go­ing through. They un­der­stand why your child is hav­ing a melt­down af­ter a long day at the hos­pi­tal,’’ Kim said.

It is also a place for re­flec­tion and to ap­pre­ci­ate the im­por­tant things in life.

‘‘We have seen kids with all sorts of ill­nesses. You know how lucky you are. There’s no room for a pity party.’’

Ron­ald McDon­ald House has fa­cil­i­ties in three other cities in New Zealand – Auck­land, Welling­ton and In­ver­cargill.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion re­ceives no di­rect gov­ern­ment fund­ing so the fa­cil­i­ties rely on public dona­tions, grants and cor­po­rate spon­sor­ship to help keep their doors open 365 days a year.

This year Ron­ald McDon­ald House South Is­land hopes to raise more than $100,000 through their an­nual na­tional street ap­peal, which be­gins June 5.

Col­lec­tors will be sta­tioned at Oa­maru New World, The Ware­house and Count­down dur­ing that week.

Dona­tions can also be made on­line at rmhsi.org.nz.

All funds raised in the South Is­land will go to­wards the two the South Is­land fa­cil­i­ties.

Oa­maru fam­ily Mark and Kim Kennedy with Cooper 7, and Ben­nette, 5, said Ron­ald McDon­ald House is a com­mu­nity fa­cil­ity where ev­ery­one pitches in to help out when it comes to sick kids.

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