Ronald McDonald House Ride for Sick Kids helping Tamworth families

STILL SMILING: Alex Southwell, 11, with his new prized possession donated by the Ride for Sick Kids. Photo: Gareth Gardner 120917GGD10
STILL SMILING: Alex Southwell, 11, with his new prized possession donated by the Ride for Sick Kids. Photo: Gareth Gardner 120917GGD10

WITH just one pair of clothes in tow, the Southwell family thought they were heading down to Newcastle for just one medical appointment.

That was six years ago.

Since then, the Southwells have split a great deal of their time between Tamworth and Newcastle as son, and little brother, Alex, 11, receives treatment for Bronchiolitis Obliterans, which has left him with just 30 per cent lung capacity.

“When we went down there, when Alex first got sick, we just had one pair of clothes, we thought we were just going for one appointment, but we ended up staying for three weeks,” mother Rebecca Southwell said.

“We were just lost.

“It was the worst time of our lives.”

We thought we were just going for one appointment, but we ended up staying for three weeks,

Mother Rebecca Southwell

Navigating through a trying time, Mrs Southwell said the family have been supported by the Ronald McDonald House in Newcastle, providing comfort when it’s most needed.

EASY RIDER: Alex with sister Grace, 14, and mum Rebecca. Photo: Gareth Gardner

EASY RIDER: Alex with sister Grace, 14, and mum Rebecca. Photo: Gareth Gardner

“That’s our second home,” she said.

“It’s just like family down there, we know all of the people and all of the volunteers.

“We’ve stayed in every single room in there.

“We drive over the hill, down to the hospital, and Alex goes ‘we’re home’.”

Even when the support has come in their time of need, Mrs Southwell said she wants to give back to the charity, offering to volunteer at the Tamworth house.

Currently, 20 determined riders cycling from Inverell to Newcastle on the Northern NSW Ride for Sick Kids  2017, in the hope to raise over $250,000 for Ronald McDonald House Charities in the region.

In the spirit of this year’s ride, Alex was gifted a bike from the charity.

In 2016, 16,140 nights of accommodation were provided to 761 families at the Newcastle and Tamworth houses.

The charity ride made a pit stop in Tamworth on Thursday, on its way to Scone.

“The proceeds from Ride for Sick Kids play a huge role supporting families of seriously ill children,” Ronald McDonald House Charities chief executive officer, Barbara Ryan, said.

“Whether it’s providing a home away from home, or an oasis in a treating hospital, all money raised helps to keep families close when enduring difficult and stressful times”.

Since the inaugural ride across Northern NSW in 2005, over 7,500 kilometres have been travelled and nearly $3 million raised.

ON THE MOVE: Charity riders with sponsors from First National Tamworth David Doherty and Margo Taggart. Photo: Supplied

ON THE MOVE: Charity riders with sponsors from First National Tamworth David Doherty and Margo Taggart. Photo: Supplied