A lifetime ago, but fresh in their hearts
When Leanne and her family recently returned to Ronald McDonald House Newcastle, she was overcome with emotion and joy.
Returning through those front doors after 12 years brought back so many memories. Not just for her, but her whole family.
Leanne and Mitch were just young parents when they first walked through the doors of Ronald McDonald House which had only opened two years earlier. They had just received the news that their two-year-old son Ben needed urgent treatment for a brain tumour at the John Hunter Children's Hospital, three hours from their hometown.
Initially, doctors gave the devastating news that Ben would only be expected to survive for just 12 months. But here he is, celebrating his 30th birthday, just like we are.
Ben enjoying his brithday celebrations at Newcastle resturant, Scratchleys on the Wharf, in April 2021.
“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 – they are like part of our family,” Leanne told us.
Over the next 16 years, the family would continue to find a ‘home away from home’ at the House. Each visit their family would continue to grow expanding to their now family of seven. The love Leanne and Mitch have for their children shone brightly during the difficult times when they would be far from home.
But they were together, so that was all that mattered.
"I remember when I first met Ben back in 1993. Each visit meeting a new brother or sister – we saw their family grow before our eyes and have gotten to know them well over the years,” recalls Ross Bingham, RMHC Northern NSW CEO.
On their recent visit to the House, they reminisced about all of the fond memories they created together as a family, even during such a difficult time. The possum who lived in the big tree that one of the kids thought was a stuffed animal; their favourite knitted rugs made by our talented community of knitters – some of which they still have as keepsakes; recalling one of their favourite volunteers – Margaret McNaughton, and the changes in the House since their last visit. When they all jumped in the family van to head home, they were still all talking continually about Ronald McDonald House.