Over thirty years, our house has become a second home to Ben, his mum (Leanne), dad (Mitch), and four siblings.
We first met his beautiful family after they received the devastating news that Ben – then just two-years-old - had a brain tumour.
The family was sleeping in the hallway of John Hunter Children’s Hospital so they could stay nearby to their son, who was on life-support in intensive care. Their life had changed within just a day, and they’d been forced to leave their home and support networks, which were three hours away from the medical services Ben needed.
They had no idea where they could stay or how long they would be gone for.
Leanne describes her experience during those first few days as feeling ‘like hell’. She tells us that the most important thing for them was to approach Ben’s medical care and the challenges that came with it as a team.
As a family unit and a support network to give Ben every possible chance of surviving his serious illness.
Our Newcastle House provided a haven so the family could stay together.
And it has continued to provide a safe space, a supportive community and a warm bed for them during their regular visits to hospital over the years.
“Ronald McDonald House came through like family. They supported us when we needed it the most. We will never forget that,” Leanne told us.
In 2000, when Ben was just nine, his tumour changed and he needed to be back in Newcastle for urgent treatment. It was then that doctors gave Leanne and the family the heartbreaking news that Ben would survive for just 12 months.
But Ben is a fighter.
This year, like us, Ben is celebrating his 30th birthday.
While the treatment and his illness have meant he has lost the ability to speak and use one side of his body, Ben has a real love for life that inspires anyone who meets him.
“He never complains. He loves his life – building war models, going to the movies, and playing bowls. He even graduated school,” Leanne shared with us.
“We put it down to the doctors Ben had and the support Ronald McDonald House gave us over this difficult time. We had nowhere else to go. The house became our home for many years, as well as for the kids. They helped us with everything.
“Ronald McDonald House provides more than just a house – they are like part of our family.”
No doubt, like us, you are totally blown away by Ben and his family’s courage over what was a difficult journey.
And Ben’s story is similar to that of thousands of families who have stayed in our house, used one of our family rooms or accessed our family retreat over the last 30 years.
For all our families, we’ve provided a sanctuary and an escape from their world, which has suddenly been thrown into chaos. Over that time, you’ve supported us in keeping families like Ben’s together when they needed it the most. But many more families will hope to find our doors open to them over the next 30 years.
So please help us provide a home away from home, learning programs, home-cooked meals, a safe space in the children’s ward and welcoming smiles tor for families with a seriously ill or injured child. Your donation will mean the world to families like Ben’s.
Leanne wanted us to share one final message -