“What’s the difference between Heartfelt Homes and Ronald McDonald House?”
I know it sounds like the start of a Christmas bonbon joke, but it’s not. That’s actually one of the most common questions I get asked when I tell anyone about Heartfelt Homes.
Ronald McDonald House is an awesome organisation that provides purpose-built accommodation to families of children receiving hospital care.
And while our services are similar, there are two principal differences between Ronald McDonald House and Heartfelt Homes.
The first is that Ronald McDonald House, while providing a valuable support to families with unwell children, don’t extend the service to adult patients.
Due to high demand for the valuable service, the tireless work carried out by the staff and volunteers at Ronald McDonald House only extends to the families of children receiving, often lifesaving, hospital treatment.
Using existing hotel and motel facilities, Heartfelt Homes uses the flexibility of our model to provide an accommodation service to the families of all patients who are in financial crisis receiving hospital treatment far away from home, regardless of their age, gender or illness.
The second big difference is that due to high demand, Ronald McDonald House can only help families of patients who live over 100km away from the hospital.
And if a family is out of this catchment area, Heartfelt Homes steps in and works alongside hospital staff to accommodate Australian families whose loved ones are receiving medical treatment far from home.
Just like the family of six-year-old Benjamin.
Benjamin is one of seven children raised in a solo-parent family.
The happy-go-lucky little boy and the life of his family took a dramatic turn on May 10 this year when he was involved in a serious car accident where he sustained a traumatic head injury.
Since that fateful day, Benjamin has been receiving lifesaving care at the critical care unit at Sydney Children’s hospital.
Benjamin’s family live just under 100 km away from the hospital so, much as they would have if they could, Ronald McDonald House were unable to support them.
As primary carer for six more children, Benjamin’s mum has exhausted all her funds by paying for accommodation for her and her three younger children to be near to the hospital where Benjamin is receiving critical care treatment.
It’s crucial that Benjamin’s mum stays near the hospital due to the severity of the vulnerable little boy’s injuries. If she were unable to stay nearby, her only option would be to make the long commute each day with three of her younger children, a five and a seven-year-old, and her nine-month-old baby who is still being breastfed.
With thanks to generous donations made to Heartfelt Homes, we were able to step in and provide accommodation for Benjamin’s’ mum and three siblings so that they could all stay together at a time they needed each other the most.
The three older children are commuting to the hospital to help their mum and spend time with their brother as often as possible.
Benjamin’s mother is, understandably, traumatised and exhausted.
Not only is she out of her mind with worry about the recovery and future of her precious six-year-old, she also has six other children to care for – one of whom still relies on her to meet very basic survival needs – and it’s vital this family can stay together.
So, while the service that Ronald McDonald and Heartfelt Homes provides to Australian families appears similar on the surface, it’s not identical.
There are some people receiving treatment in hospital who Ronald McDonald House is unable to provide their service to, and vice versa.
In this instance, Benjamin and his family.
While we’re thankful to Australians’ for helping us to say yes to Benjamin’s family, we can’t stop there.
Heartfelt Homes’ mission is to say YES to every single family, every single time.
Having the support of loved ones nearby when you’re receiving medical treatment improves the emotional wellbeing of the patient which promotes faster healing PLUS it relieves the stress of the situation for the family members who are frantic with worry about their loved one.
Receiving hospital treatment far away from home can be an emotional and logistical nightmare for the family members doing the organising, in this case, Benjamin’s mum, and our donors help relieve one small part of the pressure.
Please can you help Heartfelt Homes keep families across Australia – families just like Benjamin’s – together at a time they need each other the most by making a donation today?
It costs Heartfelt Homes an average of $350 to keep a family of four together for three nights and every single dollar donated helps improve patient recovery by having the support of their loved ones by their side at a time they’re at their most vulnerable.
All donations over $2 are tax-deductible and a small donation today will make a big difference to families across Australia who can stay together as they face an unknown and terrifying future. Families just like Benjamin’s. Families just like yours and mine.
On behalf of Australian families facing medical crisis far away from home, Heartfelt thanks for your support.