Eli LaRose, nine, loves coming staying with RMHC New Zealand when he has to visit Auckland for his regular check-ups. His condition was first discovered in 2011, and since then, he and his family have stayed nearly 300 nights at a Ronald McDonald House.
In late 2011, parents Emma and Jason noticed baby Eli wasn’t reaching his milestones, and was losing some skills. “By the time Eli turned one, he wasn’t talking or making the right sounds. We were so worried and took him to see a doctor,” says Emma.
After months of seeing different specialists, Eli was diagnosed with MPS type 1 meaning he couldn’t produce an essential enzyme to keep his body healthy. MPS type 1 affected his whole body and development. If left untreated, Eli would only live to be nine years old.
A stem cell transplant was the only option. The family had to relocate to Auckland for a few months so Eli could be treated at the National Children’s Hospital.
“We were panicking; we didn’t know how we’d pay for accommodation in Auckland. We had our three-year-old daughter Lili to think about as well. Honestly, I contemplated selling our house,” says Jason.
On their first trip, the LaRoses stayed four months. The next five months were spent travelling to and from Wanaka. Jason says RMHC New Zealand was invaluable to them, especially financially. “The reality is, Ronald McDonald House saved us. If it didn’t exist we would’ve had to move to Auckland and I would’ve had to quit my job. I shudder to think what life might’ve been like.”
As Eli grows, the family will continue to need the long-term support of RMHC New Zealand. “The reality is that Eli’s journey will be ongoing. He is stable now because of his age and growth, but that might all change when he reaches 12 or 13 and has his growth spurts,” says Jason.
Because of how grateful Jason and Emma are for the services of RMHC New Zealand, the LaRose family are deeply involved in many fundraising efforts to help families staying at the Houses, just like theirs.
In March 2020, the LaRose family will be taking part in the House to House challenge for the second year in a row. The House to House challenge asks participants to run, walk, cycle or swim 210kms in the month of March, while raising $210 to support a family for one night's stay. This $210 raised will provide a family with one night's free accommodation, a nutritious meal and essential items on their arrival.
“It’s an easy way to give back,” Jason tells us. “I guess how it started when we looked at it was how easy it was, it was attainable. That 200km and roughly $200 is something that was fun for us, and attainable.”
Eli and his older sister Lili love cycling and swimming on the weekends, so Jason and Emma decided to split the 210km between the four of them – making it a fun, family activity.
“Being that we lived in the House for quite a while and it’s kind of become our house, it’s an important part of our lives.”
In 2019, the LaRose family raised an incredible $900 – meaning their fundraising supported a total of a night’s stay for four families. This year, they plan on upping the ante and beating their previous amount raised.
The LaRoses are incredibly grateful to everyone who supports RMHC New Zealand. “The word thank you doesn’t seem to be enough. When you’re going through something with your child, not having to worry about accommodation and meals, takes a lot of the burden off and makes it so much easier. People who support the House are truly making a difference and helping families like ours get through and survive.”
If you’d like to raise money to support families with a child in hospital, you can sign up to House to House by visiting https://housetohouse.org.nz. Otherwise, you can visit us here to make a donation to keep families close to one another.