Carter inspiration behind event
Meredith Kingston sits amongst a bedazzlement of Christmas ornaments, decorations, gifts and sweets.
“How long have we been doing this?” she calls across the Christmas bedecked shop to her partner Mark Drake. “Eight years?”
The couple agree on about eight years, ever since their twins Carter and Gabby were 2.
Carter is one of the inspirations behind the annual event that Mark and Meredith hold at their Waipawa shop, Kingfisher Gifts. The Ronald McDonald House Fundraiser Day is a Christmas celebration with a difference.
“It’s like a party, everyone loves it,” says Meredith.
“It’s to show how grateful we are to be in this community. It’s to celebrate that Carter’s here, that so many people have helped us; in CHB, Hawke’s Bay, Auckland, with physio, occupational therapy, special education . . . all have helped him to have a future we perhaps didn’t think he’d have.”
Carter was born with a progressive disorder that still, after 10 years, defies diagnosis. He is tube fed 17 hours a day, his immune system is compromised and of late his motor skills and eyesight are also being challenged.
“The more he does, the more pain he is in,” says Meredith.
“Things knock him back really quickly, but he does bounce back. He bounces back from things you don’t think he’ll come back from.”
But despite the challenges, Carter is nearly as tall as his mum now, is a voracious reader and has this year managed to increase the hours he spends at school.
“He’s good at compensating and he’s not a complainer. He just gets on and deals with it,” Meredith says.
Dealing with it includes physio every day and swimming every week to retain as much strength as possible. He uses a wheelchair when faced with challenges of distance, fatigue and keeping up with his Waipawa School classmates at lunchtimes and will soon be using technology to compensate for his diminishing motor skills. He is supported at Waipawa School by the staff and two “amazing” teacher aides.
The fundraiser day is a big acknowledgement of the role Ronald McDonald House has played in the family’s lives over the last 10 years.
“We travel to Starship Hospital a lot. ‘Only’ four times this year but over the 10 years . . . well over 200 hundred trips. That’s where Carter’s pain management team is, they research worldwide for different infusions and medicines, things that have ever been tried before. That’s where we go to change his feeding tubes. And every time we stay at Ronald McDonald House there will be someone else there from CHB. It’s a vital, amazing facility.”
Staff at Starship also frequently video conference with Carter’s medical team in Hawke’s Bay, headed by paediatrician and former Children’s Commissioner Dr Russell Wills.
“He’s amazing — Carter’s biggest advocate. He pushes all the time for Carter to have a better quality of life. It’s the only life he’s known but he deserves a good quality of life.”
That the family has chosen Christmas for the celebration and fundraiser is no accident. Meredith’s passion for Christmas comes from mum Jackie Kingston.
“Mum loved Christmas, she had a huge Christmas collection — six different themed Christmas trees that we all helped decorate.”
It takes Mark and Meredith three days initially to set their shop up for Christmas.
“Then we add more each day as stock keeps coming in. There’s some beautiful stuff this year, you can’t help but get excited. It’s so much fun and everyone that comes in enjoys it so much.”
Meredith Kingston with her children Holly, Carter and Gabby Drake.