Corazon Miller is a NZ Herald reporter

Tennis: Christina McHale pays a visit to Ronald McDonald House

After 50 long days at Auckland's Starship Hospital with roughly a month spent in isolation, the chance to meet a sport star was a welcome distraction for bone marrow transplant recipient Lily Cooke.

The 7-year-old was one of a number of children at Ronald McDonald House to meet tennis player Christina McHale, 23.

The American tennis star came to the house to visit the youngsters after completing her first round at the ASB Classic in the women's singles.

She beat Japanese player Misaki Doi, 6-2, 6-4.

Lily seemed more interested in decorating cookies with icing and sparkles than the visiting tennis player, but she still willingly exchanged a few words and smiles with Ms McHale.

The tennis player said it was good to be able to give back to the community.

"Tennis has been able to provide me with so much; to come here to see the kids and play with them, it really brings me a lot of joy as well," she said.

"It's really humbling to be here and meet with these families."Alyssa McCarty of Taranaki was a little more excited to meet the player, asking several times before her appearance when the "tennis star" was going to arrive.

Mum Donna, and Dad John, said their daughter loved famous people."She's always wanting to talk to them and meet them," said Mr McCarty.

And although Alyssa was rather preoccupied with eating her cookie, when the Herald tried to ask her how her brush with fame was, the young teen was all smiles when she got a chance to be photographed with the tennis player.

Lily's mum, Julia Macer, said "distraction" was the key word for many of the kids at the house.

She said the endless days could get a little "boring" during the lengthy hospital stay.Dad Russell Cooke, said they weren't huge tennis fans, but they would watch sometimes.

"It's great the tennis people can do this for the house, it's great to have something to look forward to."

He said Lily, who "loved rabbits and enjoyed playing soccer" was the "sporty" one of his two kids.

However, he said since his daughter had become sick almost a year ago, she'd been unable to play sport.

Instead, Lily, who has been diagnosed with aplastic anaemia, enjoyed playing Minecraft with her "best friend" back in the family's home town of Wellington, through the digital link on her Xbox.

The year since Lily was diagnosed with the blood condition has been characterised by endless medical regimes and numerous stays in Christchurch and Auckland hospitals.

The latest had the family, including older brother, Liam, 12, come to Auckland while Lily had the bone marrow transplant that would hopefully fix the condition.

ASB head of community and sponsorship Mark Graham said it was great to bring the excitement of the tennis tournament to families.

"It was a privilege seeing families enjoy an afternoon with a tennis star."

- NZ Herald

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