Meet the Nicholls Family

From Lake Country, BC

“One day we thought our daughter had growing pains, and the next we were being told that we had to get to BC Children’s Hospital immediately from Kelowna,” remembers mom Toni Nicholls, about the day in August 2021 when their whole world changed. “The next few days were a whirlwind, but that is when we found out our 2 year old daughter was fighting for her life with Stage 4 Metastatic Neuroblastoma. We learned also that our journey in Vancouver will last around 18 months – and then repeated visits afterwards.”

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During what would be every parent’s worst nightmare, the Nicholls family found out about Ronald McDonald House. They didn’t know what to expect, and imagined living for over a year in a hospital-like atmosphere – but instead they were thrilled to find a comforting home with gardens, cozy fireplaces, fish, and books.

They were blown away by the programs available, from music therapy to art therapy to massage therapy, along with clean and inviting spaces, and lots of friendly faces. They could finally take a breath.

Staying in Vancouver for an extended period of time has still not been easy. “Our home, our whole family, or whole support system is in Lake Country,” says Toni, and for much of the time, their family is separated as well. Toni and her husband split their duties, between caring for Rylie, work at home and looking after Rylie’s older brother Cameron (3). During these times when the family is apart, Toni is able to lean on the community of other parents at the House, who share a unique bond of camaraderie as they face similar struggles.

Without RMH BC, Toni and Rylie would need to stay at a hotel – where Toni knows she would have none of that support and understanding, and would have the weight of everything on her shoulders, alone. Plus, at RMH BC they have the peace of mind of being only steps away from the hospital.

As Toni and Rylie take their journey day by day, week by week, the House is their silver lining. On good days, Rylie loves to run around the House, playing basketball, riding bikes, or feeding the fish – or even just running up and down the stairs, exploring every corner of the House. Seeing other kids is like a breath of fresh air after days spent isolated in the hospital. On bad days, Rylie and Toni love to relax and unwind in the peaceful courtyards.

Staying at the House also makes family reunions easier, giving Cameron a place to play when he comes to visit his little sister. “When my son does come here, he loves it!” says Toni. “We don’t have to worry about finding something for them to do; he immediately goes for the bikes or finds friends to play hide & seek.”

Summing up her experiences at RMH BC, Toni shares: “Ronald McDonald House is truly a blessing for us. It is our home now. It is our safe place. It’s where I have met amazing people, and my children have made friends and great memories. I couldn’t imagine not having this option for us during the worst days of our lives. I don’t think we would be in as good of a place mentally without it.”