Feature story portraits. December 14, 2020

More than just a partnership

We had a chat with Ray Finn OAM, Vice-Chairman of Ronald McDonald House, Greater Western Sydney. FDC delivered the new Ronald McDonald House in Westmead and together are celebrating their 40 years of providing accommodation for critically ill children and their families.

The idea of giving back is something I was aware of from a very young age. I had a great upbringing. My mum was honoured with life membership of the P&C Association, and she worked with the school long after we left. My dad was very involved with charities and clubs being a life member of Masonic Club. The importance of giving back was ingrained in me as a child and it gives me great joy and pride to have spent so many years now with Ronald McDonald House Charities.

Working as Cabin Crew with Qantas for 22 years, in the late 70’s I was privileged to secure a London base where I lived with my wife Barbara and kids, Michael, Jacqui and Ian in Guildford, Surrey, in the UK flying to Bombay (now Mumbai) every week.

Crewing the second jumbo jet into Australia, and operating the evacuation flight out of Saigon, were just some of the highlights of my career, culminating in becoming a Line Manager for cabin crew South East Asia.

From burgers to the board

My first McDonalds store, as a licensee, was my local, in Castle Hill. I’d only been running it for three months when Guy Russo, who was the boss of McDonalds at the time, paid me a visit, “I’d like you to come and be the new licensee representative on the board of Ronald McDonald House,” he said. I could hardly believe it. “In the business sense, I’m struggling to do what I’m doing now, and you want me to go and be involved with this?” I asked. He said, “Yeah, I do. Come along next week and introduce yourself.” I did – it was March 1993 – and I’ve been on the board of Ronald McDonald House ever since.

The original Ronald McDonald House was Strathmore Cottage (built 1876) a beautiful old Glebe terrace on the corner of Ross Street and Pyrmont Bridge Road, just up from the hospital. It had eight rooms and a stable which was converted to a playroom. It was all pretty rickety. I walked into a crowded little old room in the hospital and the administrator put a set of plans down and said, “This is what we’re going to build at Westmead.” I knew nothing about the charity as such but had to dive straight in and assist in raising $2.4 million to build an 18-room house directly behind the new Children’s Hospital in Westmead. It’s an incredible charity. When you see it in action, it brings it home to you; the kids and their families, the relief of having somewhere to stay, the heartache and the pain of what they’re going through. I could tell you a thousand stories.

Friends in business

When it came to building the new house in Westmead, there was a reason FDC’s presentation for the tender stood out. It was their 25-year anniversary in business. We knew they had experience on their side, but there was also a commitment that went above and beyond. They didn’t just want to build for us, they wanted to know our story. Any charity knows how huge that is; there was a genuine care and compassion that I think is quite rare.

We ended up getting so much more than a business partnership. We were building a $38million-dollar facility, but FDC made it feel at times, like we were doing home renovations. We had meetings every week, and they were constantly analysing the project, changing aspects that they thought wouldn’t be quite right, actively looking for ways to save us money. The building was delivered on time and it came in just under budget. We have 60 rooms now and we went from being able to cater for 109 to sleeping 373.

Generosity starts at the top

The kids who were staying at Ronald McDonald House watched the building going up. If a crane was coming, one of the foreman would come over and say, ‘You might want to get the kids out,’ so the kids could enjoy the spectacle. These are very sick children and seeing how FDC’s people got so much from bringing them joy was wonderful. On Fridays we’d have a barbecue at the house, and the tradies and labourers would come over and cook for the kids and their families. That generosity starts at the top, and it filters all the way down.

There are people who worked on that site that still come back and do things for us, free of charge. The kindness of people is astounding. To be part of the FDC family is a wonderful thing. I never kid myself: we would not have achieved what we did without the compassion, caring and expertise that FDC brought to our project in “Keeping Families Close”.

FDC recently donated $100,000 to Ronald McDonald House, Greater Western Sydney in celebration and gratitude of their 40 years providing accommodation for critically ill children and their families. “Giving is personal to us, many of us at FDC have families and young children and want to ensure organisations like Ronald McDonald House can continue their tremendous service to our community.” Ben Cottle, Managing Director, FDC.

FDC’s donation will provide over 600 nights’ accommodation to families with a seriously ill child who have had to travel for treatment.

To read more stories about FDC’s charitable partners, visit fdcbuilding.com.au/charitypartners/