James and Selina Amon have spent more than 120 nights in the care of Ronald McDonald House under the most heart-breaking circumstances.
Selina gave birth to twins prematurely at 23 weeks.
Halle and Hugo died at only two weeks old. In May last year, the Amons returned to the house by Wellington Hospital just before their baby Evie was born battling a life-threatening infection.
They stayed at the house from the day before Evie was born in January 2020 until April.
Their home in Palmerston North was a 300km return trip to the hospital where their children received treatment, so the accommodation, support and practical help Ronald McDonald House offered was of immense help to the family.
"Without Ronald McDonald House down there we just really would have struggled to have made it through this incredibly difficult time," James says.
"We had the support, every other stress was taken away. That comfort, in a pretty bad time, it was just priceless. You could never put a figure on how important that
is," he says.
To give back to the charity for the support they were given in their time of need, James is encouraging Kiwis to take part in the House to House fundraising challenge in March.
Kiwis are encouraged to run, walk, bike or swim 210km, which is close to 10,000 steps each day, to show the average distance families travel to stay at a Ronald McDonald House when their child is having treatment in hospital.
"I know there are house families that have had longer stays than us, but with Evie alone we stayed 134 days in that first stint. The twins were two weeks, so we are probably over 160 days and you break that down to $210 a day. That's why when I found there was a chance to fundraise, I signed up," James says.
"I will be supporting them for the rest of my life."
Providing families with a home-away-from-home, the houses offer a safe haven for families to retreat after facing the clinical world of medicine. Every year, they provide more than 4600 families across New Zealand support and free accommodation.
"We are aiming to raise over $400,000 in our third annual House to House campaign and are calling on people to participate and fundraise $1 per kilometre during March, in total $210 each," chief executive Wayne Howett says.
"This will help us provide a family in need with a night's accommodation, a meal and essential items when they arrive at the house."
You can sign up online at www.housetohouse.org.nz as a team, family or individual.
To keep track of kilometres, participants can use a FitBit or download the free Strava or MapMyFitness apps for distance to be automatically updated on fundraising pages.
Distance can also be logged manually.