When new parents Anton and Kayla welcomed their little boy Jai into the world, they had no idea RMHC® New Zealand would be their ‘home-away-from-home’ for more than seven years.

Back in 2011, Kayla was getting her toddler Jai ready for bed, when he began drawing in air and struggling to breathe. She and her husband Anton rushed him to Tauranga Hospital where doctors found that his airway was covered in a growth. What was supposed to be the size of a two dollar coin was a needle point. Jai needed specialist surgery at the National Children’s Hospital in Auckland.

 “Anton went with Jai in the ambulance. I shoved everything in the car and drove up to Auckland with our daughter Portia, who at the time was just a few weeks old.”

On the way to Auckland Kayla stressed thinking what the next days or weeks might look like for their little family. What was going to happen to Jai? Where would they stay? How would they afford it?

“We were pretty young, I would’ve been 20 and Anton was 23. Anton had just been made redundant, we had a toddler and a newborn and just couldn’t have afforded to pay for accommodation in Auckland,” remembers Kayla.

Her worries were put at ease when she was told the whole family could stay at Ronald McDonald House®, right next to the hospital. “We settled in right away, it was so helpful having a base.”

Although Jai’s surgery was a success, he needs surgery every 4-6 weeks to trim back the growth in his airway. The family stays at Ronald McDonald House every time and Kayla says having the whole family together has been crucial. “It means we can all support each other, and having us around makes Jai feel like he isn’t alone.”

Over the years, the family has come to see Ronald McDonald House as their safe place. They have grown close to the staff and other families staying there. Kayla says they appreciate the wonderful memories created while at the House, “Jai turned nine at the House recently and had the opportunity to run the ball onto the field for the Warrior’s Charity Game. He even got his own shirt with his name printed on the back! It was amazing.”

Recently, Kayla decided to run the Auckland Marathon in support of RMHC New Zealand and raised over $2,200. “We’ve spent so much time there over the years and I just thought it was a way that we could help contribute and give back. I think it’s an amazing charity and gives so much support to the families that need it.”