Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) is asking people to get outside this November for a fun and fit month of walking, running, riding or gliding to raise much-needed funds to help them care for the families of sick children.
The Red Wig Challenge raised more than $33,000 last year, which helped support 1285 families with children undergoing treatment at the Canberra Hospital with 2744 nights’ accommodation.
The Stephensons were one such family.
A year on from his birth, baby Noah has spent almost more time at hospital than at home.
Ali and Adam and daughter Harriet welcomed Noah to their family at 36 weeks in the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children in Garran. He was then diagnosed with Down Syndrome and spent two weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
At just four months old, Noah returned to hospital for bowel surgery and now, at one year, is back again for another surgery.
The Stephensons live in Crookwell in rural NSW, but throughout the family’s rollercoaster of a ride at the hospital, they were put up in the Ronald McDonald House so they could stay close by their son and not have to face a three-hour return journey every day.
Ali said they will be forever grateful.
“It almost brought us to tears walking through the facility, seeing everything available to our family at such a vulnerable time in our life, including being able to do simple tasks such as washing clothes, making a coffee, having a shower, or spending time with extended family,” she said.
“We will be forever grateful that we were able to come and go as we needed so we could still be by Noah’s side when he needed us most.”
Dad Adam said it was a relief to be free of worrying about mundane issues and instead focus on being there for their new son.
“Having a place in Ronald McDonald House certainly took away the financial and emotional burden of having to worry about accommodation during Noah’s hospital visits, and instead, this allowed us to focus our energy solely on supporting Noah,” he said.
“Having access to the kitchen also meant we weren’t spending time and money on takeaway or cafeteria meals.
“Until you are in a situation where you need this service, it is hard to know how it benefits people, but seeing and experiencing Ronald McDonald House first-hand, we will be forever grateful.”
RMHC is asking people from Canberra and surrounding parts of NSW to join in the Red Wig Challenge by choosing to ride, walk, run, or glide your way towards a pre-determined number of kilometres, either solo or with family members, friends, or workmates.
“This year we would like to raise at least $50,000 which will pay for almost 380 nights of accommodation to support families from across the ACT and South East NSW when their world has been turned upside down with a sick child in hospital,” fundraising and marketing manager Robyn Zwar said.
Once registered online, you will be sent your very own red wig and you can start clocking up the kilometres. Individual and team entrants are encouraged to share photos on their socials so friends and family can help them achieve their fundraising goals.
Ronald McDonald House in Canberra is situated on level two of the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children in Garran and supports around 30 families each month with accommodation.
The Family Room receives an average of 900 visits per month while the Family Retreat can support up to eight families per month.
Ronald McDonald House Canberra welcomes anyone interested in fundraising, donating or volunteering to get involved.
“We are so excited to run this event virtually again this year,” Robyn said.
“The people of Canberra really got behind the Challenge last year … We hope that this year’s event will be equally well supported, and we can come together to help families like the Stephensons and be there for them when they need it most.”
If you’d like to find out more about the charity and the Red Wig Challenge 2021, visit the website.