Sask. family says Ronald McDonald House helped them in 'darkest moment' of their lives

A Saskatchewan family says they’re grateful to Ronald McDonald House Charity for support during their son’s recent cancer treatment.

“That was absolutely the darkest moment of our lives, there’s nothing that can relate to someone telling you your child is sick and has cancer,” said the boy’s father Aubrey Ashby.

The family resides in Meath Park, locates roughly 40 kilometres northeast of Prince Albert.

In summer of 2021, Kai Ashby was diagnosed with a malignant germ cell tumour in his groin which spread to his pelvis and lungs. He was 16 months old at the time.

“Initially we didn’t know anything was wrong,” said Kai’s father.

Aubrey says Kai got a minor injury playing in the house so they took him to the doctor. After a few weeks, they noticed the swelling wasn’t going away so they took him back to the doctor.

That's when he was sent for a biopsy.

The prescribed treatment was four rounds of chemotherapy that included five days of chemotherapy a week and one day of hydration.

Aubrey says because they lived over two hours away from Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital in Saskatoon, a social worker referred them to Ronald McDonald House where they stayed for 81 days over a four-month period.

“It gave us the ability to keep our focus on what was important with Kai’s treatments. It gave us a safe place to sleep and maintain everyday life,” said Aubrey.

He says he, his wife, adult daughter and 5-year-old son were able to stay at RMH. They also took part in the meals-at-home program, activities for children and chat groups.

“It’s just a huge benefit to have something like that and keep everyone together and heal properly.”

Kai has been cancer-free since the treatment and is a mobile toddler.

CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities Saskatchewan Tammy Forrester says the charity strives to alleviate stress and the financial burdens on families with sick children by providing rooms at a reduced rate, in-house meals and other programs.

“I think it really relieves a lot of stress that they feeling,” said Forrester. “Feedback we have gotten from many of our families is that there’s a sense of home and comfort here.”

The Ashby’s hope by sharing their story people will be reminded to donate to the charity and participate in McHappy Day on May 11 at McDonald's restaurants.

Forrester says even though it’s a national day all the proceeds raised in the province, stay in the province.

About 25 per cent of the charity’s annual operating budget comes from McDonald’s, including McHappy Day and Happy Meals, says Forrester. Per year, she says RMH serves 1500 to1700 families in the province.