Ethan was eight years old when he and his family set off on the holiday of a lifetime. His parents had been planning the trip for three years. Starting in Wagga Wagga they planned to drive all the way around Australia by car.
They had only been on the road for two hours when Ethan started vomiting. At first they thought it was just a run-of-the-mill stomach bug. But 12 days later when they finally arrived in Alice Springs, Ethan was still being sick.
Ethan and his mum were airlifted to Adelaide, while his dad and little sister Ella followed in the car. He was diagnosed with cancer and moved to the Sydney Children’s Hospital in Westmead to begin intensive treatment over six months.
Ethan’s parents were 460km away from home, with nowhere to stay and their lives on hold. That day they made their first call to Ronald McDonald House.
Last year Ethan’s family, along with 8000 others, were able to receive support through one of 16 Ronald McDonald houses across the country. Whether it’s for one night or one year, families get to treat the house like it’s their home.
“It allows the family to be as close as possible to the hospital where their child is being treated and to have their family and friends around them as they would in their own home,” said national fundraising and communications manager at Ronald McDonald House Charities Australia, Michelle Ring.
“The core of what we provide is togetherness during a time that has the potential to tear families apart,” she said.
For more than 30 years Coca-Cola has been a fundamental supporter of Ronald McDonald House. It began with a single vending machine in the first house in Camperdown. Now it extends to meals and entertainment programs across the nation as well as significant support for the charity’s fundraising events.
Check out this video from one of our visits in 2015.
“Coke supports lots of different organisations but helping families when they need it most is really important. It’s a great thing that Coca-Cola can do,” said Warren Frome, McDonald’s business manager for Coca-Cola South Pacific.
“We support them with product donations, charity items and through the major sponsorship of their charity ball,” he said.
Coca-Cola also takes part in a program where staff members visit a house once a month. “Across the country, our teams go to the houses, cook for families and guests and provide entertainment like movie nights and discos,” said Warren.
“At every Ronald McDonald House we also have a vending machine we fill free-of-charge with 100 per cent of the revenue going back to that house as a donation,” he said.
The most recent house to open in South Brisbane is the largest ever built in Australia. It has 70 rooms in an impressive 13 level building but it’s already near capacity.
“Part of our long-term strategy is to significantly increase the number of families we can support,” said Michelle.
“We aim to grow the charity rapidly over the next three to four years to meet demand and ensure we’re reaching the people who need our services,” she said.
Ethan’s family is still at Ronald McDonald House in Westmead. Ella has transferred from her school in Wagga Wagga to one closer by. Thankfully, they have a home away from home until Ethan and his family can go back to their real one.