Port Lincoln family share Ronald McDonald House story

SUPPORTERS: Gemma, Belinda and Trent Adams, together with McDonald's Port Lincoln owner Tony Baj, hope the community get behind McHappy Day on November 13. Photo: Jarrad Delaney
SUPPORTERS: Gemma, Belinda and Trent Adams, together with McDonald's Port Lincoln owner Tony Baj, hope the community get behind McHappy Day on November 13. Photo: Jarrad Delaney

November 13 will mark 30 years of McHappy Day and one Port Lincoln family is urging people to support Ronald McDonald House so it can continue to help families on Eyre Peninsula, just as it had done for them.

The Adams family had need of Ronald McDonald House more than a decade ago when young Gemma Adams was diagnosed with aggressive kidney cancer.when she was five-years-old.

Going through 35 cycles of chemotherapy, along with radiation treatment and countless surgeries, Miss Adams spent a good portion of her childhood in hospital which was a stressful time for her and her family.

However her mother Belinda Adams said Ronald McDonald House in Adelaide provided great support for the family during this dark time.

"It was a safe haven, a shoulder to cry on and opposite of that, it was a celebration when we had a small win medically," she said.

"Gemma was there for the whole year in 2008 and it meant (her father) Trent could come back (to Port Lincoln) with our son for school and work because I was supported and Gemma was supported.

"Something like that you never hope to use but, by God, you're thankful it's there."

Miss Adams had initially gone through a seven and a half hour surgery with no result, which then led to debulking of the tumour and then successful surgery about two months later, followed by regular chemo.

Despite missing a lot of her schooling due to treatment, Miss Adams has just finished her first year of her nursing degree at Flinders University.

Miss Adams said she did not originally want to work as a nurse, or in the medical field, due to spending so much time in hospital when she was a child, but when she was in year 12 she would opt to study nursing after caring for her grandmother, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer.

She said she was so thankful for the support she and her family received through Ronald McDonald House.

"It was one of the blackest times for my family and if they weren't there, I don't think we would be sane," she said.

"Knowing Mum and I had a place to stay that wasn't in a hospital was great."

More than 60,000 families stay in the 18 Ronald McDonald House locations nationwide each year, as the facilities allow for families of seriously ill children to stay together during important treatment.

McHappy Day is McDonald's biggest fundraiser for Ronald McDonald House Charities, having raised more than $56 million over the past 30 years.

McDonald's Port Lincoln will join other outlets on November 13 in raising money through McHappy Day, so the Adelaide facility could continue to provide support for regional families, which it still does for many on the Eyre Peninsula.

McDonald's Port Lincoln store owner Tony Baj said Miss Adams' story was inspiring, from her spending time in Ronald McDonald House and missing a lot of school, to now studying to be a nurse.

"It really has come full circle...it can't get any more rewarding than that," he said.

On the day $2 from every Big Mac sold or 10 cents from every bottle of water goes directly to Ronald McDonald House Charities, or people can support by buying Silly Socks for $5 or a Helping Hand for $2, $10 or $50.

Mrs Adams said the family hoped the people of Port Lincoln would once again rally behind McHappy Day.

"It does so much for the house, so many families on Eyre Peninsula have used Ronald McDonald House," she said.

"Whatever you can, get down next weekend and support the cause."

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