Home from home helps at hard time

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Shannon SmithAlbany Advertiser
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Danielle Fleer and Declan, 7 months.
Camera IconDanielle Fleer and Declan, 7 months. Credit: Shannon Smith

Albany mother Danielle Fleer knows the value of Ronald McDonald House.

At the age of 2, living in Albany with her family, she was diagnosed with neuroblastoma and her parents were told she had a tumour in her lower abdomen.

She had two years of chemotherapy and radiotherapy in Perth while her parents stayed in a room on the ward — a horrible experience for them.

That was before Ronald McDonald House was built.

After an unsuccessful attempt to remove the tumour the family went to Denver, Colorado, with an Act of Grace Foundation grant where she had the 1.1kg tumour removed.

That was where her family had their first experience of staying at a Ronald McDonald House.

“Mum and dad were overwhelmed at the hospitality. It was like being in a normal home,” she said.

“It was a beautiful place to stay away from the hospital.”

Some 79 Albany families have used the Ronald McDonald House near Perth Children’s Hospital since it opened in December 2015.

That equates to more than 1100 nights of accommodation for those families at a time of need.

Albany’s Longest Lunch is one way people can come together to support the charity and the families it supports.

Mrs Fleer went into remission after the childhood surgery in the US, but she said the tumour caused ongoing troubles which led to the removal of a kidney.

“By then the Ronald McDonald house in Subiaco was built and it was amazing,” she said.

“Mum and dad had a place to rest and I had toys and it was a home away from home.”

After her experience she became a live-in supervisor helping other families before she returned to Albany.

Along with then premier Colin Barnett, she opened the doors of Ronald McDonald House at its unveiling.

Now 33, one of the side-effects of the treatment is that she is unable to have children but after eight years of IVF, she was approved to have her sister Megan be a surrogate mother for her child.

Danielle and her husband Peter now have a seven-month-old named Declan.

Mrs Fleer said she can now put herself in her mother’s shoes and appreciate how helpful Ronald McDonald House was.

“Now that I have my own son it brings the use of the house so much closer to my heart. I would do anything for him,” she said.

Internationally acclaimed chef Chris Taylor, from Fraser's at Kings Park, will prepare the food for Albany’s Longest Lunch, with local produce and matching wines.

Trenton and Rebecca Brennan — chefs from the award-winning Ocean & Paddock on Middleton Road — will be joining him.

The hosts of the event and McDonald’s Albany licensees, Darren Tyrrell and his wife Tracey, said the lunch would be a celebration of great food for a great cause.

“These are families that would have to pay for hotel rooms in Perth, especially near the hospital,” Mr Tyrrell said.

There will be an auction at the lunch which starts at noon at Albany Golf Club on May 24. For tickets, events.humanitix.com.au/albany-s-longest-lunch.

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