Press Release

Stepping Up: RMHC’s CEO Walk in My Shoes with Simon Rutten

In March 2024, VP’s Director Simon Rutten took part in Ronald McDonald House Charities Northern NSW’s CEO Walk in My Shoes.

Imagine this: You receive life-shattering news about your child’s health. Everything feels uncertain. But amid this chaos, there’s help. Ronald McDonald House Charities Northern NSW provides a haven for families facing a child’s critical illness. It’s a home away from home, just steps from the treatment your child needs. Here, anxieties ease, allowing you to focus on what truly matters: your child’s recovery.

The CEO Walk in My Shoes is an annual event held by Ronald McDonald House Charities to raise much-needed funds to ensure this vital service can continue. Held this year on March 14, the event proved to be more than just a fundraiser for Simon Rutten. It was a journey of empathy and a chance to step into the world of families braving unimaginable challenges. Here is his experience.

Simon shared his experience with the team pictured above: Ross Bingham CEO at Ronald McDonald House Charities Northern NSW, Jason Styles from PowerEarth, Simon, Paul Allan from Club Taree, Robert Dudgeon from Newcastle City Council, Jenny Webber from Nine, Frank Kraft from Saunders, Geoff Sweeney from Nepean Power, Kevin Baker from BHP, Bryce Parker from Power Control Engineers and Mark Feeney from ATB Morton (not pictured).

Simon Rutten’s experience at CEO Walk in My Shoes

Simon Rutten Walk in My Shoes

As a father of two, the thought of a child needing critical medical care far from home is terrifying. Then, imagine the added stress of not knowing where you’ll sleep or how you’ll afford it. That’s the harsh reality for many families.

That’s why participating in RMHC Northern NSW’s CEO Walk In My Shoes was an easy decision for me. This program allows CEOs to experience, first-hand, the challenges families face when a child requires specialised care. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness and vital funds for RMHC, allowing me to contribute on the ground and make a real difference.

A humbling experience

The experience was a rollercoaster of emotions – humbling, saddening, inspiring, and truly eye-opening.

Right from the start, we were assigned a fictional story about a family staying at the House. This was to colour our experience, so we could really imagine the decisions and feelings that person would have to make minute by minute and hour by hour. Mine involved being a single parent, their partner away on a FIFO schedule, caring for a newborn with Gastroschisis. This personal connection stayed with me as we toured the facility, seeing the rooms named after children who never made it home.

A haven away from home

The dedication of the RMHC staff and volunteers was immediately apparent.

We met incredible volunteers who act as a crucial support system, welcoming families arriving at all hours, often in shock. Witnessing their tireless efforts first-hand truly opened my eyes to the unseen world behind the scenes and the immense impact they have on families in crisis.

Their mission is clear: create a haven, a home away from home, for these families. While children bravely face procedures at the hospital, the House provides a space to relax, share meals, and find a sense of normalcy.

The staff and volunteers also foster a strong sense of community.

We were fortunate enough to cook for and then share dinner with families that were staying at the House. Talking to them, it became clear just how much comfort they found in shared experiences and being in the House together. This was particularly meaningful in my scenario, where my support network was geographically distant.

A reality check

While we enjoyed a slower pace cooking and sharing meals with families at the House, the program was designed to mimic the real-life challenges and unpredictability of having a sick child. Around midnight, we were jolted awake and presented with real-life medical scenarios and asked to make decisions.  The pressure of these choices, compounded by what you could imagine would be heartache and stress, served as a stark reminder of the constant, difficult decisions families face every day.

This experience triggered a wave of gratitude for my fortune in having two healthy children. It also highlighted the disparity in circumstance – not everyone enjoys such fortune. This was also a key driver for my participation in RMHC’s CEO Walk In My Shoes.

Several close friends had relied on Ronald McDonald House during personal tragedies. Witnessing their experience deepened my desire to better understand and support the House which became a shoulder for them in their time of need.

The other driver was that my business partner, Clare Ferguson (founder of Verve Partners), had participated in the program in 2022 (read about her experience: RMHC CEO Walk In My Shoes: Clare’s experience). Speaking with her about her experience, it was clear how emotive and moving it was for her.

Fundraising for a critical cause

Despite RMHC’s incredible work, they still face limitations in accepting all families in need. Given the name of the House, many expect that funds are not an issue. While McDonald’s is a significant supporter, charitable donations cover the remaining 80% of operating costs.

RMHC Northern NSW are currently fundraising for an extension to their facility which will increase capacity. That means, fewer families will need to be turned away in their time of need. This is why fundraising initiatives like CEO Walk in My Shoes are critical.

Thanks to the amazing support of my network, we raised over $6,000 for the House. This was my first-time spearheading fundraising efforts, so I was especially pleased knowing these funds directly impact families here.

A lasting impact

This program was more than just a fundraiser. It was a life-changing experience that opened my eyes to the incredible work of RMHC Northern NSW. They truly make a difference in families’ lives during their most challenging moments.

Participating in CEO Walk in My Shoes has made me a stronger advocate for RMHC. It gave me a newfound appreciation for my blessings and a desire to help others in need. It also fostered a sense of community among the participating CEOs, bonded by this shared immersive experience and a desire to do more.

Beyond fundraising: A commitment to helping

Verve Partners is proud to be a long-term supporter of RMHC Northern NSW.  This goes beyond financial contributions.

We’ve sponsored a balcony in the House for 2024 and participated in volunteer days like Meals from the Heart, with many more planned.  This is more than just a charity for us – it’s a cause we believe in deeply, and we’re committed to doing our part to support families facing unimaginable challenges.

Meals from the Heart December 2024: Team Verve Jodi O’Connor, Beck Chisholm, Lotte Baker and Nicola McKenzie

Related insights

Access the latest on hiring trends, people + culture and putting your best foot forward.