It’s said that a change is as good as a holiday, but for the families of children with a serious illness or other health challenges, nothing short of a holiday will do, which is where the Ronald McDonald House Family Retreat comes in.
Located in the coastal township of Forster on the NSW Mid North Coast, The Family Retreat provides a peaceful getaway by the beach for families to take time out to relax, reconnect and create precious memories together.
A funding partnership with Greater Charitable Foundation enables 40 families to access the facilities for free and enjoy a holiday that otherwise may not be possible.
Ruby, who has Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, along with her family were able to have a break at the Retreat recently, travelling to Forster with her family from her home in Armidale.
Ruby’s mum Jennifer said it was simply amazing to be able to all get away together.
“We had such a good time and the whole family absolutely loved it – especially Ruby,” Jennifer said.
“Ruby has treatment coming up just before Christmas which leaves her quite unwell, so it was great to be able to get away as a family before that happens and do some things other people take for granted, like going to the beach, going fishing, having breakfast in a café – which is not something Ruby has ever done!
“It was so good to be able to get away and be a family – enjoy each other’s company in a lovely location – and so amazing to see her swimming in the ocean.”
The support of Ruby and her family by Ronald McDonald House Charities Northern NSW goes well beyond their stay at the Family Retreat.
While Ruby was an oncology patient at Newcastle’s John Hunter Children’s Hospital, her family spent 203 nights at the Ronald McDonald House Newcastle, which enabled them to be close to their little girl. The support saved them more than $23,000.
Jennifer said that Ronald McDonald House makes a massive difference to the whole experience.
“When Ruby received her initial diagnosis, we had to go from Armidale to Newcastle immediately by air ambulance – just Ruby and me – and she was there for nine months,” Jennifer recalled.
“We had no idea what was happening or would happen, let alone thinking about where to stay, so over that time we became close with many of the staff and volunteers.
“Ruby is still receiving treatment at John Hunter Children’s Hospital, so she has to return to Newcastle regularly and it’s so nice to see friendly faces. It’s like a home away from home for Ruby.
“I don’t really know how to describe the help Ronald McDonald House provides and I can’t say enough about the incredible volunteers at Newcastle.”
Ronald McDonald House Charities, Northern NSW CEO, Ross Bingham, said they rely heavily on community support, such as that provided by Greater Charitable Foundation, that enables them to provide direct support and alleviate some of the financial burden many families with sick or injured children face.
“Having a child with serious illness or significant injury places an incredible amount of stress and strain on a family’s emotions, patience and finances,” Ross explained.
“Children like Ruby come through our doors every day and we see first-hand the challenges they face as a family.
“Our facilities, such as Ronald McDonald House in Newcastle and the Family Retreat in Forster, ensure the families remain connected in a supportive and safe environment, without having to worry about the cost.
“We are incredibly fortunate to have the support of Greater Charitable Foundation so we can in turn provide this invaluable support to these families in great need.”
In February this year, Greater Charitable Foundation renewed its partnership with Ronald McDonald House Charities, Northern NSW, committing more than $650,000 for a further three years to take its total contribution to the charity to more than $1 million.
Greater Charitable Foundation Chief Executive Officer, Anne Long, said the partnership positively impacts many lives across regional NSW.
“Ronald McDonald House Charities, Northern NSW has a long-held reputation for providing an outstanding service to many families and their programs dovetail perfectly with our new funding strategy of improving the overall financial wellbeing of beneficiaries,” Ms Long said.
“Caring for a sick or injured loved one can be incredibly stressful, particularly when it’s a child needing care, and the inevitable financial impost families face makes things even harder.
“We are proud to play a part in reducing that burden for families so they can continue to focus on the health and wellbeing of their sick or injured child and, importantly, each other.”
Click here to find out more about our partnership with Ronald McDonald House Charities Northern NSW.