4 April 2024

Night of glamour as Canberra comes through in a big way for Ronald McDonald House

| Dione David
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Two people on stage at at Ronald McDonald House Gala Ball 2024

MC Sandra Sully AM with RMHC supporter Mirko Milic of Canberra Toyota and Lexus on stage at the wildly successful Ronald McDonald House Gala Ball 2024. Photo: Hot Shots Photography & Media Services.

Given the times, staff at Ronald McDonald House Canberra (RMHC) could only clap hands together and pray that their flagship annual event would bring in the funding they were counting on – and Canberra delivered in a big way.

The charity’s annual gala night raised $796,000 to help keep Canberra’s “big red doors” open. Up from last year’s $725,000, this result, RMHC’s Lee Maiden says, is nothing short of inspiring in the current economic climate.

“Considering everyone is doing it tough right now, we had our fingers crossed that we would top last year’s outcome, and we certainly did,” she says.

“We’re overwhelmed by the generosity of those who donated funds but also those who donated their time throughout the year and on the night to pull this incredible event off.”

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As guests dined on three delicious courses, danced to Sneaky Sound System and celebrated the people holding up the four walls of the House, 80 volunteers scurried about behind the scenes to ensure the night went off without a hitch.

These legends were celebrated in the event’s theme – ‘A night amongst the stars’. The stars being RMCH’s many sponsors, donors, staff members, families and, of course, volunteers.

“Imagine if we had to pay 80 people to support us on the night,” Lee says.

“These incredible people made the gala the success it was. On this night, and all throughout the year, we thank them from the bottom of our hearts.”

The evening was MC’d by the indelible Sandra Sully and punctuated by live performances from Kulture Break, Baker Boys Band and headliners Sneaky Sound System.

Lee says while she’s never seen so many people rocking out on a dance floor before, guests could have heard a pin drop when RMHC turned the spotlight on one of their families – Brook and her mum, Debbie.

“As they told the story about how Ronald McDonald House had impacted them, this room of a thousand people became silent. It was such a beautiful, moving story that really highlighted why we were all there and why we do what we do,” she says.

“They’re not used to public speaking, so I think it’s so brave of them to get up in front of such a sizeable crowd and tell such a heartfelt and personal story. The guests were so respectful, they listened, they shed a few tears … We were so proud.”

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RMHC is a home away from home for hundreds of families each year whose children are in the Canberra Hospital Intensive Care Unit. During their stay, which can last many months, families receive free accommodation and meals.

RMHC does not receive government funding, and the annual gala event is a major source of funds to cover its operational costs.

It costs the organisation $150 a night in accommodation alone to host a family. With 10 rooms in the House, that’s close to $550,000 per year, and it doesn’t include other expenses such as food, or the satellite retreat in Batemans Bay where families going through some of their darkest days can spend a week of quality time together.

“We must raise as much as possible to continue to offer this service to families in need with seriously ill children,” Lee says. “That’s why the gala is so important to us and why we work so hard year-long to create such a memorable night for all.”

The date for next year is already locked in, and planning commences shortly for the gala on 29 March 2025.

To find out more, visit Ronald McDonald House Canberra.

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