Charmain Habjan and her partner Sean Amos could never have imagined spending 122 days at Ronald McDonald House Canberra with their daughter, Gabriella.
Unfortunately, that was their reality after their baby girl decided to join the world 14 weeks early.
The pair, originally from Goulburn, said having a place to stay close to Gabriella, the support of the staff and the many community donations got them through.
“We just couldn’t have done it. They made it so we could stay here and don’t have to commute back and forth from where we are from and worry about fuel and just that stress,” Sean said.
“At the start when she was in a humidicrib, I wanted to be there right on the hour every hour, and I wouldn’t have been able to do that if we were at home,” Charmain added.
“Not knowing anyone in Canberra would have made that even harder because I would have been coming back and forth with nowhere to stay.”
During their long and difficult stay in the house, Gabriella was also diagnosed with Chronic Lung Disease caused by prematurity.
However, with little Gabriella in arms and four months to the day after she was born, the family was discharged from Ronald McDonald House and ready to return home to Goulburn on 23 October.
While Gabriella is making improvements every day, Chairman admits she wasn’t feeling so sure for a long time.
“It was only in the last six weeks that I started feeling like ‘I am going home with my baby girl’,” she said.
Charmain, Sean and Gabriella are just one of the many families helped by Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) each year and, in turn, supported by the upcoming McHappy Day on 14 November.
Running for nearly three decades, the fundraiser sees $2 from every Big Mac sale on the day add to the $51 million total raised for RMHC over that time.
Reflecting on their time in the house, Charmain and Sean said while knowing of the charity and McHappy Day, they couldn’t have imagined the extent of support offered to families like themselves.
“Something like this comes out of nowhere and you don’t realise the support and help you get from places like this,” Sean said.
“This is one charity I have always been 100% supportive of knowing that it’s a good one, but 100 times more now,” Charmain said.
Jumping on board the worthy charity as an ambassador since 2017 is local Cooma boy and popular Canberra Raiders’ player, Sam Williams.
Sam said his decision to work with the charity was “a no-brainer” after seeing the impact they have had in the local region.
“It’s one of those charities that directly influences this region; the money you give directly helps the people to stay here and I think at some point in our lives, we will all know someone who needs it,” he said.
“I think often we get pats on the back for helping these sorts of charities, but I can honestly tell you we get way more out of it than what any charity does.
“We come in here after a loss and we see a family who is really doing it tough with a young one who is in hospital for six to 12 months and it just puts so much perspective into what we do.”
You can join Sam in showing your support for Ronald McDonald House Charities by purchasing a pair of $5 Silly Socks from your local McDonalds (until sold out) or buying a Big Mac on Saturday 14 November.