Help for house of hope

Alyssa Kotsopolous and her family have been frequent visitors to Ronald McDonald House.

By Tate Papworth

More than 35 determined riders are about to complete a 347-kilometre journey, raising funds for a good cause.

The Victoria Ride for Sick Kids 2019 is expected to conclude today with riders arriving at Ronald McDonald House in North Fitzroy, three days after beginning their journey in Lorne on Saturday.

The riders hope to raise $250,000 to support Ronald McDonald House, which offers a home away from home for parents and families of sick children.

Julianne Bugeja, of St Albans, said the house has been a life saver for her and her family after daughter Alyssa was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy, a rare neuromuscular disorder, when she was just nine months old.

“Alyssa was diagnosed in April 2005 and two weeks after that was her first of many admissions to the Royal Children’s Hospital,” Julianne said.

“With her condition, when she picks up things like a cold – something we’d use tissues, suck it up and get over – she gets very sick from.”

This past four months Alyssa has had multiple stays in the hospital.

“It’s been a rough four months – in November Alyssa contracted meningitis and in January she had spinal surgery which she got an infection from in February,” Julianne says.

“With intensive care they don’t encourage parents to sleep by the bedside just in case there’s an emergency and they need to get machines and things like that through, but because we do most of Alyssa’s care with a special machine, we need to be close by – that’s one of the reasons the house has been so wonderful for us.”

Ms Bugeja said the house had been a source
of comfort over a challenging 13-years.

“We’ve got two boys as well so this place has really helped us keep the family unit together. It’s also been a great support network to meet other families.

“It’s a very lonely place when you have a sick child, so to have people to talk to, who know what you’re going through is really important.”

She thanked the riders for their efforts.

“A lot of people know about the Ronald McDonald House, but if you haven’t had to experience it, live it, I’m not sure you can fully understand how important it is and just how much it does for families with sick kids. It’s a wonderful thing these riders have done.”