RMHC Central West keeping families together and close to the medical care they need

RMHC Central West keeping families together and close to the medical care they need

Ronald McDonald House Central New South Wales in Orange provides accommodation for families that are coming to Orange for medical treatment.

Their service is free of charge for families with an unwell child going into hospital or having medical procedures. The house is set behind Orange Base Hospital in the leafy grounds of Bloomfield Park and provides security, support and assistance to families while in care.

RMH Orange services all the medical specialties

Manager at Orange, Rebecca Walsh, says one of the things that they’re trying to amplify is who’s eligible and that RMH does exist in the Central West. “I think by the very nature of the larger [city] houses that are well established and the marketing we do as a national charity, people often think their kids aren’t sick enough or not eligible because they think about the extremely unwell children with cancer that need our support.”

RMH Orange services all the medical specialties (provided by the hospital) such as ear, nose and throat surgery, fracture clinics, orthopaedics; anything to do with children under the age of 18 – including their child and adolescent mental health unit which services 100% percent of New South Wales.

High risk pregnant mums welcome

“We also support families that are coming into Orange to birth. Mums that are classified as a high risk pregnancy come because Orange is a medical hub, and they come from right across the Central West for that special reason,” she said. “Probably 80% of our families come from the Western New South Wales Health District because of the available specialist services in Orange.”

Snack or fidget-thing anyone?

A lot of the local work is also focused on the high volume of clients and great need for family services in Dubbo, so from late August RMH – and Central West Health – will be launching the Ronald McDonald House Charities Central West NSW Hospitality Cart Program in the Dubbo Hospital.

“This is a bedside service in Paediatrics and the Special Care Nursery in Dubbo Hospital run by volunteers. It’s a custom built trolley with toiletries for families that are sleeping beside the beds, activity packs for the kids in the beds on the ward, snacks and bottles of water. And we hope to grow it over time and get support from the Dubbo community to eventually be able to put things on like fresh fruit for families as well.”

They are yet to branch out to other hospitals with the trolleys but Rebecca reported they’re starting in Dubbo because of the huge need there. “We would like to replicate this over time in other hospitals that the charity says we can do that in, which is exciting,” she said.

Volunteers make the world a happy place

RMH, known as the ‘house’, is run by 2.5 staff, (two full-time staff and a casual admin role) 365 days a year. Given the around clock nature of the work of making meals, housekeeping, turning rooms over, administration, and transporting families their volunteer base is integral to the services.

“We’ve got volunteers that fulfil roles such as overnight volunteering, and they’re here for the families that are in the house already but also for if hospital calls after hours to bring a family over in an emergency. The Board of Directors and Gala Ball committee are all volunteer roles too, so we are always looking for new people. They are the heart and soul of the house.”

Rebecca would love to have more skilled volunteers join the gala ball committee from Orange and especially from some of the towns RMH helps. “It’s the largest fundraiser of our year, and we think it’s important that some of our volunteers, where possible, can be from within the community that we we serve,” she said.

Schools and community fund raising

As well as fundraising with the gala ball each July – and many donations in kind from generous businesses including an excellent Sydney big band and delicious canapes to ensure a great party – events are held throughout the year across the region including ‘Redtember’ in schools in September, ‘McHappy Day’ (16 November 2024), and ‘Walk in My Shoes’ in March (a 24 hr CEO immersion to see what it’s like to be a family accessing RMH).

“All of the ideas are concepts that anyone can be involved in and help them feel like they’re contributing, and they also help raise awareness of the house,” she said. “We really want that RMH here in Orange to be top of mind for people coming to Orange to seek specialist services. We are also establishing committees in towns and communities which we serve to help us to raise awareness and to fundraise. It’s important to have community members and past families on these committees as they have the lived experience, and are our family ambassadors.”

Half a century supporting families with allied medical needs

Ronald McDonald House Charities is a global charity founded in 1974 in Philadelphia, USA. Dr Audrey Evans, an oncologist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, had a vision for providing a place for families to live and get proper rest away from the ward while their children were undergoing treatment. Funds to build the first House were raised by the local McDonald’s restaurant and in exchange for their support it was named “Ronald McDonald House”. The first Ronald McDonald House in Australia was opened in Camperdown, NSW in 1981 and was also made possible through the generous support of McDonald’s Restaurant franchisees. In October this year we celebrate 50 years of the charity.

Rebecca added, “The McDonald’s organisation and the franchisee owners everywhere do a lot that people don’t see. And our Central West franchisee owners are hugely supportive in what they do for our house and helping spread that awareness in the community as well.”

Corporates and volunteers give generously as partners

These hard efforts, plus in-kind support from RMH National Corporate Partners and local relationships are integral to the house; suppliers like Sealy who ensure every bed in the house is upgraded or replaced when required; national corporate partners providing funds; local computer and IT support; in-house custom-made toiletry packs and friendly Corporate and Community Partners participating in their Corporate Volunteering programs making meals available 24/7 ensures that families have a place to stay within their community when they’re on a medical journey.

Ronald McDonald House in Orange – a warm and supportive ‘home’ where families can breath while getting the care and support they need.

Click for enquiries, donations and events: Ronald McDonald House

  • Bill and Jane - Volunteers. Image supplied by Ronald McDonald House Central NSW

  • Hospital cart - Image supplied by Ronald McDonald House Central NSW

  • Cvonewmont - Dinner in a dash team. Image Supplied by Ronald McDonald House Central NSW

  • RMH patient. Image supplied by Ronald McDonald House Central NSW

  • Image Supplied by Ronald McDonald House Central NSW.

  • Where do families come from? Image Supplied by Ronald McDonald House Central NSW.

  • Join us team - National Vollies week 2024. Image supplied by Ronald McDonald House Central NSW.

Diana Smith

I'm an Orange-based photographer, writer, face painter and book designer. I enjoy meeting the lovely folk of our community and have been involved in publishing/media/comms for about 15 years. I have done several exhibitions and in 2022 published my own childrens story, 'The Mouses Houses.'

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