Clare Ferguson and other CEOs participating in CEO Walk In My Shoes

RMHC CEO Walk In My Shoes: Clare’s experience

In March 2022, VP’s Founder Clare Ferguson took part in Ronald McDonald House Charities Northern NSW’s CEO Walk In My Shoes.

Thursday 24th March, 2022| 6pm

Ronald McDonald House, John Hunter Hospital, Lookout Rd, New Lambton Heights NSW 2305

In March, VP’s Founder and Director Clare Ferguson took part in Ronald McDonald House Charities Northern NSW’s CEO Walk In My Shoes. It was a special experience meeting the families that use Ronald McDonald House, and the staff who make it their mission to support them through the toughest time in their lives. Here’s her experience.

Clare’s experience at CEO Walk In My Shoes

As a mother of three, I can’t even begin to imagine receiving the news that my child is seriously ill. Then knowing I must relocate away from my support system to ensure my child receives life-saving treatment, not knowing where we will sleep or how we will afford it.

That’s why, when I was invited to take part in RMHC Northern NSW’s CEO Walk In My Shoes, it was an instant yes. The House is the home, support system and sanctuary for any family who must walk that terrible road.

The experience itself was incredible, humbling, saddening, uplifting, and perspective-shifting.

It started when we arrived on the Thursday of the experience. Each CEO was given a unique story about a family who had stayed at the House. It was something I found myself continually thinking about as we walked through the 12 bedrooms and 6 units that make up RMH Northern NSW.

Clare Ferguson and other CEOs participating in CEO Walk In My Shoes

We were shown the rooms where the families stayed, some of which were named after children who never got to go home. We saw where devoted volunteers waited for families that would arrive in the middle of the night, to help alleviate some of the stress and the worry. Often these families would have just been told to pack quickly and get to the hospital as soon as possible, understandably distraught, and unprepared for a stay that could last for anything between 30 to 200 nights.

A home away from home

What was so apparent is how devoted the staff and the volunteers are. They focus so much on creating a home away from home, a haven. While children may have needle after needle in the hospital, they draw a clear line at the House. No doctors or nurses are allowed inside so the children and families can relax. Every meal is provided, and they can be together and create some type of a new normal, at least while they are at the hospital.

We met a single mum, Siobhan, and her daughter Savannah, who had been at RMH for 183 days.

Siobhan and her daughter, who shared her experience at CEO Walk In My Shoes

That was shocking to me. 183 days of treatments, fear, worry, being away from your home and big question marks about what will happen.

But Siobhan spoke with such strength.

I have such admiration, respect, and compassion for her. She shared her story and brought me – and every CEO in the room – into her world. We felt some of what she felt, which was an incredibly moving experience.

The most important message she had was that without RMH, her experience would have been so much worse. She said they had helped her every day she was there, and her daughter ‘Savvy’ found such support there too. As Siobhan spoke, Savvy held the hand of a volunteer. It was beautiful to see the bond that they had built.

RMH did such a good job of immersing us in this world.

We cooked dinner, and went back to the hotel to sleep, but were awoken around midnight and given real-life medical scenarios. What would we do? What would the impact of our decision be? How might our stress affect our decision-making? It was sobering to think about the realities these families face, at all hours of the day, for days or months on end. You wouldn’t want to do it alone.

Clare Ferguson participating in CEO Walk In My Shoes

Why it’s so important we raise funds

Devastatingly, in 2020 and 2021 COVID destroyed everything they were there to do. RMH couldn’t accept families – even turning them away at the doors – because of the restrictions in place. So many families ended up sleeping in their cars in the car park of the hospital, not being able to afford the cost of accommodation for a long stay.

Even now, RMH must turn away 27 families a month as they simply don’t have enough rooms. It’s why raising money through initiatives like CEO Walk In My Shoes is so important.

While McDonald’s is a large supporter, the money they receive only covers 20 per cent of costs. RMH must raise the other 80 per cent to run the House from charitable donations.

And this is where I owe everyone who donated and supported me a huge thanks.

With support from the VP network, together we successfully raised $4,249 in fundraising, which gives the families of Northern NSW a home away from home for over 31 nights.

As a combined group, together with the other CEOs, we helped RMHC Northern NSW reach their goal of providing a home away from home for 365 nights. It’s a record achievement.

I also received some heartwarming news the week after our experience.

After 189 days at RMH, Siobhan and Savannah were finally able to go home. Thank you for sharing your story and your daughter’s story, Siobhan.

Thank you to Ross Bingham and Amy Osborn, from RMHC Northern NSW for the opportunity to really open my eyes. The work you, every staff member and every volunteer do is truly life-changing. You can see this is an organisation run with heart.

About CEO Walk In My Shoes

The families that stay at RMHC have just received devastating news about the health of their child. Then, they must make the decision to leave their home, jobs, and support system so that their child can receive life-saving treatment. The House becomes their support system and place of sanctuary so that they can focus on their child.

RMHC provides:

  • Accommodation, free of charge.
  • Cooked meals.
  • Support.
  • Access to programs.

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