29 January 2024

Ronald McDonald House Canberra provides a festive haven in tough times

| Dione David
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Malua Bay couple Mallory Hazelton and Harley Jagelman with baby Cove at a beach

Ronald McDonald House Canberra was the ideal home away from home last Christmas for Mallory Hazelton and Harley Jagelman as they waited for baby Cove to reach full term, but the little family are looking forward to their first Christmas in their own home this year. Photo: Teegantagg.

It’s the simple things that Malua Bay couple Mallory Hazelton and Harley Jagelman looked forward to this Christmas. They planned lunch, made a list of Chrissy cocktail recipes and, most of all, enjoyed the novelty of their first Christmas in their very own home with their one-year-old son.

For little Cove, it was a far cry from his first Christmas, which was spent in the Canberra Hospital NICU after he and his twin brother Ziggy were born prematurely at 30 weeks. Tragically, Ziggy passed on 23 December following complications during surgery.

The couple had just bought a new home in September and were not expecting the twins until the following January, so it wasn’t the Christmas that Mallory and Harley had envisioned for themselves. But not everything about that Christmas away from home was sad.

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The reason was Ronald McDonald House Canberra, where the couple stayed while waiting for Cove to come to term.

“I remember thinking it was actually a good time to be staying. The decorations were up, spirits were high because it was the festive season, and that can do a lot to lift you up,” Mallory said.

“They had a box of things for Cove for Christmas, including his first little Christmas stocking and reindeer teddy bear. That was so nice and honestly, that’s the same level of care they gave the whole time.”

Ronald McDonald, the McDonalds mascot draped in Christmas decor

Ronald McDonald House Canberra ramps up the festive cheer at this time of year for families spending this special time far from home. Photo: RMHC Canberra.

Located one floor below the Canberra Hospital’s NICU, Ronald McDonald House Canberra has 10 rooms to accommodate couples and families with seriously sick or injured children staying at the hospital for prolonged periods.

Its communal spaces, like the large lounge, dining space and kitchen with a perpetually well-stocked pantry and fridge, are often meeting places for the families under this big roof, all of whom are going through similar experiences.

Volunteers often cook for the families to help sustain them as they focus their energy on their children recovering in intensive care.

Mallory said having their own space, including their own bedroom and bathroom, was a “godsend”, but anyone who wants company at Ronald McDonald House has it.

“We’re still friends with a few of the families on social media,” she said.

“In the kitchen every day, there was someone you could chat to. Every day, they’d asked how baby was going, and they’d check to make sure everyone was comfortable. They’re lovely people who understand you’re going through a hard time.

“I don’t know what any of us would do without them.”

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Ronald McDonald House Canberra accommodates about 240 families a year without government assistance. It relies on its 150-odd volunteers and the generosity of the ACT and Southeast NSW community to raise the funds it needs to keep its big red doors open.

You can gift a night of respite or find out how to donate toys or festive treats to families in need via the Ronald McDonald House Charities ACT Christmas Appeal.

Original Article published by Dione David on Riotact.

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