Helping out rural families

Rebecca Walsh, CEO of Ronald McDonald House Orange was thanked by CWA member Kaye Kilby.

Rebecca Walsh, CEO of Ronald McDonald House Orange was thanked by CWA member Kaye Kilby.

Rebecca Walsh, CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charity (RMHC) Orange was the guest speaker at the November meeting of Cowra Evening CWA Branch.

President Ann Apthorpe, in her introduction reminded members of Rebecca's personal connections with Cowra, namely that her late mother, Pauline Walsh and her late aunt, Libby Walsh, had both been members of Cowra Evening CWA Branch.

Rebecca spoke about how Ronald McDonald House provided free accommodation and emotional support for families with children and "premi" babies needing life-saving paediatric care.

Thanks to a dedicated team of volunteers supporting the two

permanent staff, the facility remains open 24 hours a day every day of the year.

Upon arrival anxious parents are given meals and care packages for themselves and their children and much kindness by the trained volunteers.

Covid-safe protocols are in place.

The Ronald McDonald House in Orange is the first house to also support families of Child and Adolescent Mental Health.

It all began in 2005 when Orange McDonald's franchisees, Joanne and Geoff Lewis noticed how some families were sleeping in cars because they could not afford to pay for accommodation whilst their sick child was in hospital.

A community meeting was organised and the Head Office of the charity was eventually persuaded by the combined arguments of the community and paediatricians. Lots of fundraising followed over nearly 10 years with many groups in the Central West donating regularly.

In April 2015, the Orange facility opened after being "kitted out" by local businesses with free IT, white goods, kitchen ware, furniture etc.

RMHC Orange has eight bedrooms and can accommodate up to six members of an eligible family, with the hospital being only two to three minutes away.

The common area at RMH.

The common area at RMH.

Since 2015, 777 families from NSW and other states have been accommodated.

Records show that Parkes, Condobolin, Forbes, Cowra, Young and Dubbo have had the highest percentage of stays so far.

Fund-raising is ongoing to supplement funds from the Sydney Head office which oversees all the branches of RMHC.

Rebecca said that fund raising is a huge priority for her to keep this community resource running smoothly. She made the point that all funds donated to the Orange facility stay there.

RMHC is now a global charity with houses in many areas of the world including the USA, Europe and the United Arab Emirates.

Vice-President, Kay Kilby gave the vote of thanks to Rebecca and presented her with a bouquet donated by branch member, Jill Allen.

Later in the meeting State Vice-President, Judy Houghton, talked about her visits to branches in the Far Western, South Western and Cumberland CWA Groups.

Rowena Casey is organising a fundraising Pop-Up Shop in Kendal Street next to Re'lish.

Jams, cakes, plants, games, books and lots more will be on sale to the public on Thursday, December 3 and Friday, December 4.

Anyone who has items (new or used) that they would like to donate can bring them to the shop on Wednesday, December 2 from 11 am onwards till early afternoon.

The December 9 meeting will be the annual Christmas Celebration open to family and friends of members.