As the official welcomes began at Wednesday night's Supper Club, a buzz of chatter continued around the room. But when Bulls' Gaye Cranston stepped up to the microphone and began telling her family's story, the room suddenly fell silent.

It was a stark reminder to all of why they were there.

Mrs Cranston's daughter lost her unborn baby just weeks before he was due. She spoke of the tough times that followed for the family and how a week at the Ronald McDonald Family Retreat in Ngongotaha gave them the chance to rebuild and make happy memories with their other children.

Last year, I interviewed Auckland mother Bridget Pirie, whose then 9-year-old son Peter had incurable leukaemia*. She called her family's week at the lakeside retreat unforgettable. Last week, we profiled a Napier family, whose 4-year-old had a rare brain disease. They described their retreat week as "the best week of their lives".

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They are just a few of the human faces of the charity. And it seems their stories were not lost on Supper Club guests.

This year, a record $77,000 was raised. The generosity of spirit shown on Wednesday was incredible and a credit to Rotorua.

The generosity probably shouldn't surprise us - we've seen it time and time again in Rotorua. Whether it be families suffering illnesses or tragedies or our annual Christmas appeals, Rotorua is always quick to get behind those suffering tough times. Wednesday night was just another example of that.

By the way, a year after that story, Peter Pirie is still grinning.

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