Mason’s face is a masterpiece. His smile is gorgeous. His eyes, bright and full of life. It’s no wonder his little sister Sophie thinks her big brother is officially the coolest person in the entire world.

It is just that Mason has a few slight differences in his face that have made a massive difference in his childhood. For example, it took Mason more than five years of hard work to learn to talk. Now that he can, this brave eight-year-old is catching up fast.

Mason wasn’t breathing when he was born in a small provincial hospital and doctors had to reassure Mason’s terrified Mum, Jasmine. It was extremely fortunate that Mason’s doctor had been studying rare conditions. “I was just reading a book about this.”

“This” is TCS – Treacher Collins Syndrome. It meant that Mason and his Mum had to be rushed by air to Wellington Hospital, to start his long and painful journey of surgery after surgery.

Not only was Jasmine gripped by fears for her new born son, she was overwhelmed by worries about how to cope alone in the capital. “To book a hotel … when you just know you cannot afford that.”

Ronald McDonald House Wellington took all those worries away. “My first impressions: Wow! It was so comforting. They were there to reassure you that you were safe” remembers Jasmine.

“People don’t realise how many milestones happen at Ronald McDonald House,” Jasmine reveals. “The first time Mason smiled was in the House.”

She puts it like this: “The things that normally happen in your home happen in this home.”

Mason was aged four, when he experienced Christmas in a different home, thanks to the generosity of Ronald McDonald House Charities® (RMHC®) New Zealand. It was the week before Christmas and Jasmine was warned about the major bleeding following his surgery.

“I was really nervous,” she said. “Really panicked. How am I going to get Mason’s Christmas presents? It sounds silly, but I was so anxious, that was my fixation.”

Once again, the staff and volunteers at Ronald McDonald House were there to help. “Don’t worry, they said. Everything will be fine.” They helped Jasmine with online shopping, storing Mason’s gifts and wrapping them. “It was just above and beyond.”

“I cannot speak highly enough of the experience. I just always, always look forward to going there. I know I can walk in there in tears and they will just listen … and help you get presents!”

Mason also worried about Christmas. This was a big deal. How could Santa know he was at Ronald McDonald House?

Remembering that Christmas Day, Mason asks, “What did my face look like, Mum?”

“You were shocked, because you didn’t believe me when I said Santa knows where you are.”

Jasmine realised something else especially important about the House on Christmas Day. “All these volunteers had given up their time with their families to come and make sure we had a Christmas lunch. That was the biggest part for me.” The people who make Ronald McDonald House happen are simply extraordinary.

That was four years ago. Today, Mason is doing very well. He is getting to the age, though, where he knows he has TCS. That is his special thing. Most days he feels proud to have worked so hard and so bravely. Sometimes, though, he feels a bit different and he struggles with that. “He just has some days when he gets upset about it,” says his amazing Mum.

RMHC New Zealand has helped to ensure Mason receives the best Christmas gift of all: the gift of time with his family, even when he must be in hospital.