They’re used to serving up New Zealand’s biggest news stories, but last week, a crew of presenters and reporters from TVNZ took time out to dish up dinner – and a huge dose of support – for families at Ronald McDonald House in Auckland. Cook Night was nothing new for weather presenter Renee Wright, who is mum to 13-month-old Leo and has been an ambassador for the children’s family trust for the past two years.
“I’ve always loved the house, it’s an amazing place,” says Renee, whose parents owned several McDonald’s restaurants when she was a child. Her family would drive to Auckland every year to throw the families a midwinter Christmas party.
“My memories are the people here. It’s the worst thing to go through, having a sick child, so to have a place that takes away the stress of having to travel to the hospital is a huge help. When I became pregnant with Leo, I thought to myself, ‘I really need to get involved again.’”
Renee’s co-cooks, who included Saturday Breakfast host Nadine Chalmers-Ross, outgoing Breakfast presenter Petra Bagust and Sunday presenter Miriama Kamo, were each assigned their own roles in making the casserole and salad, brownies, and New Zealand strawberries and ice cream.
Richard Koroio, father of Keanu te Wheturangi (7), who is staying in Starship Children’s Hospital due to the serious bone infection osteomyelitis, was so grateful for the support from the TVNZ crew he stood up to make an impromptu speech.
Hailing from the Hokianga, Richard has resigned from his job to look after his son, who will need treatment in Auckland for three or four years. He anticipates he’ll need to stay at the hospital long term while Keanu’s mum works, travelling down every weekend. “When I first came here I was blown away by the whole set-up, the staff make you feel so at home – I’m so grateful,” he says.
After dinner the volunteers cleared up and Renee and the team talked to the children and their families. When Leo is old enough, Renee plans to take him to the house to contribute as a volunteer as well. “This can happen to anyone, so we try to support those brave families,” she says.
Ronald McDonald House Auckland provides support to more than 2000 families of sick children from across New Zealand. To donate or volunteer see rmhauckland.org.nz