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Wanaka couple Linli and Andrew Lovelock’s second eldest child Madi was 10 years old when she was diagnosed with brain cancer. She received treatment at Christchurch Hospital and spent quality time recovering alongside her family from the comfort of Ronald McDonald House South Island. Even when the festive season was upon them, there was no shortage of support, love and care thanks to the staff. Madi’s mother, Linli Lovelock, talks to reporter Alexia Johnston about how the service made a difference to the family during one of its most challenging times.

Christmas at Ronald McDonald House is one the Lovelocks will never forget.

“Christmas morning we opened our door and the kids were screaming with excitement,” Mrs Lovelock said.

“It was the biggest box [of presents] they had ever seen, or will ever see in their lifetime.”

The Lovelock family consists of mother Linli, father Andrew and siblings Emily (12), Madi (11), Harrison (9) and Hallie (6).

This year they will celebrate Christmas at home in Wanaka.

But for the past year Ronald McDonald House South Island, in Christchurch, has been their home-away-from-home after Madi was diagnosed with brain cancer in September last year.

She had surgery to remove a tumour and endured six weeks of radiation treatment.

Madi spent a large portion of her recovery process at the house with her mother where they welcomed regular visits from family.

The experience within the confines of the house gave the family hope “that everything just might be OK”, Mrs Lovelock said.

“The staff were always there for us with a hug or a conversation whenever it was needed.

“It became a safe place for our family, a sanctuary in a time of unknowns,” she said.

 

Home away from home . . . Madi Lovelock knows just how beneficial Ronald McDonald House South Island is to young families, especially at Christmas time. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

 

“It was what we needed and it was where we needed to be at this moment in our lives.”

While it was a support for both Mr and Mrs Lovelock, Madi also benefited greatly.

“It was really lovely for Madi, during what was a hard time, to be living in an environment that was more like home than hospital,” Mrs Lovelock said.

The family made friends, the children played on a trampoline, rode bikes and scooters and Madi baked with volunteers, proving the facility was “more than bricks and mortar”.

Last Christmas, the family gathered at the house, an occasion that was made extra special by the many members of the community who donated money and gifts and provided messages of support for those who required the facility over the festive season.

People can do the same this year, either providing money for a gift, or by downloading a Christmas card template to write a letter to the families, or to draw pictures for the children.

The cards are displayed in the house for the families to read.

People can also sponsor a wreath.

Ronald McDonald House South Island chief executive Mandy Kennedy said there had been more than 950 families come through the doors this year.

“This is no small achievement and we would not have been able to do this without the support of our amazing donors and volunteers.”

She said by removing the stressors of everyday life, providing home-cooked meals, comfortable bedrooms, plenty of hugs and support along with a friendly ear to listen on tough days, the service could give families with a hospitalised child what they needed most – ” each other”.

“Every cent we raise goes directly to providing free accommodation and support for families with a child in hospital away from home.

“Our heartfelt thanks to all who have supported Ronald McDonald House South Island this year.”

Mrs Lovelock agreed that everyone who supported the cause played an “important part in keeping families together in this special place known as Ronald McDonald House”.

“I say a very big and heartfelt thank you, from myself, Madi and our whole family.”