McDonald's Canada is celebrating 30 years of making a difference for families with sick children through McHappy Day this Wednesday.

Locally, from Bagot, Amanda Welsh and her daughter Daphne emphasize the importance of McHappy Day and the Ronald McDonald House Charities.

Born with a severe heart condition, Daphne is a six-year-old girl who has had eleven surgeries and spent over 293 days at Ronald McDonald Houses in Winnipeg and Edmonton. Amanda says that although it can be hectic for her and Daphne, the Ronald McDonald House provides them a safe space while dealing with challenging times.

"The Ronald McDonald host has become extremely important to my family," the mother continues. "Trying to tell your child that they have to go for a pretty severe surgery is scary for a lot of reasons. But now I get to tell her we get to go to the Ronald Mcdonald House before and after surgery. She's still scared about her surgery but happy because she can see the volunteers there, which means the world to us. She gets to go play in the play structure; she'll get to do a craft. She gets to talk to other kids that are also at the house that maybe aren't having heart surgeries, but they are going through other situations where they're scared, too."

Daphne on airDaphne and her mom made an appearance on the Country 93 morning show to kick off the festivities at this years event.

Amanda explains that meeting families that are dealing with similar situations is comforting.

file photo

"Four open-heart surgeries for a six-year-old is pretty extreme. I have family, and nobody in my family has ever had to deal with a child in the hospital as much as Daphne's been in the hospital, and our friends, it's the same thing. So, it's hard to talk to them about what I should do and how we should feel. With these families, you can talk to other people who are going through some of the same stuff that you are."

While working around her heart condition, Amanda says that Daphne makes the best of the hand that has been dealt to her, going to school and playing baseball and soccer in Portage.

"I've taught her not to let her heart condition define who she is. She's still a six-year-old child. So yes, we have limitations when she has surgeries, but she's a very happy spirit child. When you meet her, you wouldn't know she's got a condition of her heart. She does have artificial heart pieces, so they don't grow with her, which means she knows that she's going to have more surgeries in the future for her heart. But it's a matter of teaching her that that doesn't define who she is."

Wendy Galligan, the CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities Manitoba, tells PortageOnline that it means everything to her to serve a family such as Welsh's in their time of need.

"We serve over 1,000 families a year, just like the Welsh family. When families are faced with leaving their community, we are here to catch them. The hospital does an incredible job of taking care of the patient and the child. Someone needs to be here for the family. And so we're here to provide accommodations, meals, transportation, parking, and all the essential services so that families can focus on what's most important and not be, of course, their sick or injured child and themselves."

The CEO notes that this is her 10th year in the role, coinciding with the 30th McHappy Day.

"It's through partnerships and generous giving like McHappy Days that McDonald's and their partners can continue to be here for families," says Galligan. "Thanks to medical advancements and incredible care of healthcare professionals, children are healing more than ever."

file photoWendy Galligan, the CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities Manitoba.

Galligan encourages everyone who can visit their local McDonald's on McHappy Day to make a difference in a family's life.

"On McHappy day, everything stays local, and you're supporting Manitoba families and northwestern Ontario families. It really is an incredible day to give back to families who need support."

In Canada, 65 per cent of Canadians live outside a city with a children's hospital. At Ronald McDonald Houses and Family Rooms, families are given a caring place to stay close while their child is undergoing treatment at the nearby hospital, with bedrooms, kitchens, and quiet spaces to be together and a loving and supportive atmosphere.