Vaimoana Tapaleao is the New Zealand Herald's Pacific Affairs and People reporter.

Friendly shelter helps a little girl in her ordeal

Charity assists families in times of need ... now it is asking for a bit of help itself.

Eva Mitchell and her mother, Tiff, are helping raise cash for Ronald McDonald House. Photo / Dean Purcell
Eva Mitchell and her mother, Tiff, are helping raise cash for Ronald McDonald House. Photo / Dean Purcell

For little Eva Mitchell, "home" will always be the big colourful building next to the hospital, where all her friends lived just a few steps down the hallway.

Eva, 5, has spent her entire life at Ronald McDonald House next to the Starship children's hospital in Auckland. It is the only home she knows and it is very much a part of her family's lives, mum Tiff says.

"I really didn't want this title - but we are the longest-staying family at Ronald McDonald House.

"That's the only home we've really known. The people who have stayed there became our family too. We owe them so much for what they've done for us."

Eva was born with a hole in her diaphragm, which meant her organs were pushing up towards the heart and lung cavity stopping her lungs forming properly.

She has complete gastrointestinal failure and has to be fed through a tube.

Her condition has meant that for five years she and Tiff have stayed at the house while older sister Mela, 7, and dad Joel stayed at their home in Warkworth.

Mela has also spent a lot of time at the house - something her mum says has been a blessing for both her daughters.

"It's kept them together. They've been able to grow up together and be best friends and still see each other regularly.

"When I've told Mela off about something, she'll run out of the room and have about 10 aunties come and give her a cuddle and tell her everything's okay."

This week, "Smile Stickers" went on sale at McDonald's restaurants around the country to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House Charity.

Today is McHappy Day - when $1 from every Big Mac and Happy meal sold today will go towards the maintaining of the houses in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

The Mitchell family have since moved out of the Ronald McDonald House into a small residence near the hospital, as doctors have told them they can do nothing more for Eva.

Ms Mitchell praised McDonald's fundraising initiative, saying the money raised would continue to help families who had gone through the struggles of having a sick child.

"At the end of the day, Eva's organs don't work ... I'm just happy to be able to finally take her home and just have a somewhat more normal life with her," Ms Mitchell said.

"She's such a happy little girl and it's something I've really wanted to give her for a long time. But we still go to Ronald McDonald House for our cuddles and pick me-ups.

"That's the kind of place it is for us."

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- NZ Herald

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