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Providing support in the darkest of times.

Regional families facing the unimaginable trauma of a child in hospital with serious illness or injury often arrive at Ronald McDonald House Newcastle in the middle of the night, exhausted and stressed.

There to receive them is Carey Binks, an overnight volunteer of 6 years who is on hand to provide families with ongoing care and compassion while their child receives treatment close by at John Hunter Hospital.

Carey said the House becomes a home away from home for more than 600 families each year who can find themselves staying for weeks or even months at a time.

“Our clients come mainly from Northern NSW – places like Taree, Tamworth, Armidale, Inverell, all the way up the coast and even out west – so they’ve come quite a way to get here and sometimes they stay for in excess of 12 months,” he said.

“The facilities are great at the House and our job is to make sure these families have got everything they need. We make them feel welcome, and every day we ask the parents how they’re going and how their kids are going.

“The parents and siblings are often our main focus. These sick kids have got the best care in Australia in the children’s hospital, so we look after the parents, because they go through the trauma with their kids.

Someone once told me, ‘You may have a sad day but never a bad day at the House.'

Carey has given over 3,500 hours as an overnight volunteer and CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities Northern NSW, Ross Bingham, said Carey’s contribution during Covid-19 was critical to ensure the House could continue to operate.

“In the early stages of the pandemic, we saw an immediate reduction in volunteer numbers – down almost 80% from 230 to approximately 50. During periods where operations were run by skeleton staff, with no daily volunteers and only three volunteers suitably trained for overnight duties, Carey became indispensable as he picked up approximately 90% of the overnight shifts,” Ross said.

“With Carey’s support, were able to continue operations, supporting up to 18 vulnerable families during a profoundly difficult and isolating time – for both families and the charity.

“Carey is a thoughtful volunteer contributor. He initiates conversations and seizes opportunities to suggest ways of doing things better, safer or in the best interest of the families with a seriously ill or injured child being supported.”

In recognition of his tremendous contribution to others, Carey was awarded the Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation 2023 Chairman’s Medal.

First presented in 2018 in honour of the late Michael Slater, who served as Chair of Newcastle Permanent Building Society and Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation for nearly ten years and spent more than 50 years volunteering his time and talents to local organisations, the Chairman’s Medal is recognition for an outstanding volunteer who sets aside their own priorities to better the community.

As well as Carey being awarded the Chairman’s Medal, Ronald McDonald House Newcastle will receive a $5,000 grant to be used for volunteer training, development and recognition.

2023 Chairman’s Medal recipient, Carey Binks.
2023 Chairman’s Medal recipient, Carey Binks.

About Ronald McDonald House

Ronald McDonald House Charities mission is to support the ever-changing needs of seriously ill children and their families.

Ronald McDonald House Newcastle gives seriously ill children the best gift of all – their families. The warm and supportive home-away-from-home provides the entire family with a comfortable place to stay and peace of mind, knowing they can stay together and close to their child at John Hunter Children’s Hospital.

Over 600 families a year stay at Newcastle House. The comfortable family bedrooms and self-contained units provide a homely experience to families when they need it most, while the common areas allow for shared journeys and unwavering support.

The Chairman's Medal

First presented in honour of former Foundation Chairman, Michael Slater, who spent more than 50 years volunteering his time and talents to local organisations, the Medal is recognition for an outstanding volunteer who sets aside their own priorities to better the community.

The Medal is presented annually to a volunteer from a charity that has previously received funding from the Foundation as well as a $5,000 cash grant to the volunteer’s charitable organisation to be used for volunteer development.