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26th Oct 2018

Matt Dawson desperate to give back after the shred of normality that kept his family going

Patrick McCarry

Matt Dawson

A home away from home. That’s all it is, but it means so much.

Matt Dawson had never heard of Ronald McDonald House Charities before his young son fell ill. He would have happily spent the rest of his life oblivious to the great work the ‘Keeping Families Close’ campaign does, but life has a habit of rushing at you fast sometimes.

Dawson would have been well able to cope with such scenarios as a World Cup-winning rugby player and, now, a broadcaster.

However, as a father, the illness that befell his son, Sami, threw him for a loop.

Sami contracted meningitis when he was just two years old and was immediately hospitalised.

Speaking to JOE as part of a fundraising awareness campaign, Dawson takes up the running:

“My lad had meningitis a couple of years ago and was in hospital, up in London, for three weeks. As you can imagine, to have to be in hospital with your child for such long stretches of time and then heading home, and back, and all hours just adds to how really, really tough the whole experience is.

“We were then offered one of the homes associated with the hospital and it meant we didn’t have to be rushing back and forth every day. It may seem like a small thing but it meant so much to me, and my family.”

“To be honest,” Dawson admits, “not many people know about these houses. I would have been like that too, but they were just fantastic. They have everything you need – TV, showers, WiFi, toys in a playroom if you’ve got other kids.”

Matt Dawson with his wife, Carolin Hauskeller.

The accommodation and support service is free but benefits greatly from fundraisers and family focused event like the ones take place at McDonald’s restaurants across the UK on Saturday and Sunday.

McDonald’s is hoping to raise £500,000 this weekend to complement the £5 million per year they give towards the free family accommodation. That money saw more than 8,000 families stayed in a Ronald McDonald House last year alone.

Earlier this week, Dawson spoke with other families that have benefited from the homes – in place for 14 hospitals around the country – and those conversations have driven him on to give this campaign as big a push as he possibly can.

“Hearing stories from some families that have been through such hard times and who have been helped by the charity is really inspiring. This is really a case of every single donation meaning so much as I’ve seen first-hand, and heard, how much it helps.”

“I hope that parents never have to use these services,” he added, “but it’s comforting to know the support is there for families when they need it most.”

Matt Dawson is supporting McDonald’s UK campaign to help raise funds for Ronald McDonald House Charities. On Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th October, McDonald’s restaurants across the UK will be holding family fundraising days in an effort to raise much-needed donations for the charity. Head into one of over 1,300 McDonald’s restaurants this weekend or visit the website for more information: