Home away from home
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.