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Paws for Sick Kids RMHC - August 2020

Calling all pets to take part in the RHMC Sydney Paws for Sick Kids campaign this August

Most pet owners need no reminders about the immediate joys that come with sharing their lives with their companion animals. Our pets alleviate loneliness, encourage exercise, make us laugh, provide unconditional love and bring people together. 


Research has also shown that playing with a dog or cat can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax. It’s no wonder, that the concept of pets as therapy is becoming increasingly popular and one of the reasons behind a new campaign at Ronald McDonald House Charities Sydney - Paws For Sick Kids

In January 2018, Wilbur, an 8-week-old Labradoodle started his work in the House. He made short visits to the families each day, under the care of a staff member or volunteer. Wilbur is now 2 ½ years old and a much loved member of the RMHC Sydney family. He is also the face and inspiration behind Paws for Sick Kids

@WilburTheHouseDog is sad because he has to stay home and practice social distancing!

During the recent pandemic, Wilbur hasn’t been able to visit the House every day, but has kept in touch with families through social media. This campaign sees @WilburTheHouseDog inviting all pets to do what he does every day – bring smiles to the faces of seriously ill children, using the power of social media.

How Can You Get Involved?


Furry, feathery, scaly and slimy, pets of all varieties can take to the spotlight by partaking in campaign challenges of varying skill levels.

Challenges include easy-level selfies and look-a-like with humans challenges; to the medium-level temptation challenge where pets are tested not to touch their favourite food or toy when their human leaves the room; and hard-level challenges including the Mario Cart challenge featuring a pathway of treats for the animal to eat in a particular pattern.

Alternatively, participants can choose their own daily challenges to complete during the week of 2-8 August 2020. Registrations open via the Paws For Sick Kids website on 22 June 2020.

Those who register are encouraged to share snaps and videos of their pets' attempts at the challenges (with bloopers welcome!) using #PawsForSickKids on social media.

The campaign also features competitions judged by RMHCS’ resident dog, Wilbur; with prizes to be won including stays at Ovolo Hotel Group’s award-winning luxury boutique hotels in Sydney where dogs are welcome. Wilbur’s TikTok account @WilburTheHouseDog features examples of his attempts at the campaign challenges.

While a monetary donation to RMHC Sydney isn't required to take part in the campaign – with the digital content itself to surely help bring priceless smiles to the faces of sick kids who stay at Ronald McDonald House Randwick – participants can recruit sponsors for each challenge to help raise much-needed funds for RMHC Sydney.
It costs $160 to accommodate one family at Ronald McDonald House Randwick for one night.

A 'home away from home' for families required to travel to Sydney for critical medical treatment at the Sydney Children's Hospital, Ronald McDonald House Randwick typically accommodates almost 750 families annually.

The Ronald McDonald House at Randwick was required to temporarily close during March 2020 as a result of the Covid-19 global health pandemic. While the temporary closure was a necessity, it inevitably impacted on the families who rely on RMHC Sydney while their sick children receive treatment at the Sydney Children’s Hospital.

“We’re very pleased that we’re now able to start accommodating families at the Randwick House again. While we’re still unable to operate to full capacity due to Covid-19 restrictions, we’re well on the way back to a fully-operational House,” explains Simone Daher, CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities Sydney.


“Like many charitable organisations, we’ve unfortunately – but not surprisingly – seen a significant drop in public donations. This is truly challenging because we absolutely rely on public support. Without your help we simply could not offer the assistance that we do to our families.

“As an independent charity, we are lucky that McDonald’s and its local franchisees provide ongoing support, but as the need for our House and corresponding programs continues to grow in demand, so too does our need to raise money from corporate organisations, community groups, individuals and our friendly neighbours. With more financial assistance, we can continue to do more for families that ask for very little.

Paws for Sick Kids is by design a cheerful campaign. We want it to brighten the moods of the families we support, as well as positively engage the general community after what has been such a difficult 2020 to-date for us all. Pets provide a really unique form of comfort and we want to celebrate that as well as fundraise for our important programs and services,” adds Ms Daher.

In addition to the Ronald McDonald House at Randwick which is importantly situated within a five-minute walk to the Sydney Children’s Hospital wards, RMHC Sydney operates three Family Rooms embedded with Sydney Children's Hospital Randwick, Royal North Shore Hospital and Wollongong Hospital. These spaces provide parents, carers and siblings with respite during long days spent at the bedside of a seriously ill child.

Furthermore, RMHC Sydney provides educational assistance for children with serious illness, helping them catch-up on missed learning following lengthy absences from school through its Learning Program which offers comprehensive assessment, therapy and tuition with qualified professionals. The Learning Program also caters for the siblings of seriously sick children in hospital.

The Randwick House’s Chief Cheer Officer, Wilbur the house dog, is a therapy dog in training and he provides a very welcome distraction to those who stay at the House.

“For so many families, they aren’t just away from loved ones and friends, they’re away from their pets and so Wilbur offers very special comfort and familiarity and under extraordinary circumstances,” says Simone Daher.

Meet Abby...

5-year-old Abby has been coming to RMHC Sydney with her mum Nicole, little brother Kayzen and Nanna Debbie, for the past 3 years whilst being treated for Henoch-Schönlein Purpura Nephritis at the Sydney Children’s Hospital in Randwick. For Abby, a trip in the car to Sydney meant one thing – a trip to the hospital. 

This made for a not-so-happy car ride, and for Abby and her family, this was a trip that they had to make quite often. During the past 3 years, Abby has stayed with us on 29 occasions and this doesn’t account for the local hospital stays that she has had to endure.

Nicole said, “Wilbur was part of the change in Abigail’s approach to coming to Sydney. She used to cry as soon as we turned onto the freeway. After Wilbur’s arrival she was so excited to see him, there were no tears.”

Abby couldn’t wait to meet Wilbur and even gave him his first toy – a little squeaky piggy. It was love at first sight! 

“One of my favourite memories is the day Abby met Wilbur. Both the kids just melted when they met him.” Whilst Abby still needs to stay at RMHC Sydney frequently, she does so with excitement, knowing that she is coming to visit Wilbur. You will hear her standing at the glass sliding doors announcing “Where’s Wilbur? I’ve come to see Wilbur!”

Need we say more? You and your pets can also bring smiles to the faces of seriously ill children like Abby by registering now at www.pawsforsickkids.com.au

You can follow Ronald McDonald House Charities on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RMHCSydney/ and on Instagram at www.instagram.com/rmhc_sydney/

Written by Rachel Stoddart – Relationship Manager Ronald McDonald House Charities Sydney, for Australian Dog Lover (June 2020).
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