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Giving Back

The Monteith family of Blenheim stayed at our Christchurch House in 2017, and are taking part in Host a Roast™ this year to give back.

The Monteith family of Blenheim experienced a terrifying ordeal when their daughter contracted meningitis in 2017. They found themselves in a new city where they knew no one, after being taken by Life Flight to Christchurch for emergency surgery. The team and families of Ronald McDonald House in Christchurch gave them the support network they needed, and enabled them a peaceful respite from the hospital. Read more about their experience here.

The Monteith family consists of mum Vanessa, dad Zane and their two cherished daughters: 13-year-old Bella, and 10-year-old Ruby. They moved to Blenheim from the fast pace of Auckland in 2015, where Zane works as GM of an electrical company and Vanessa runs her own travel brokering business. Life was going smoothly until one night in 2017 when Bella came into Vanessa and Zane’s room feeling very unwell. “Bella had been sick for a number of weeks with a virus, however on this night she took a big turn for the worse,” Vanessa explains. “She was vomiting, had a very high temperature and was complaining that her headache just kept getting worse.”

Vanessa rushed Bella to the local hospital in the wee hours of the morning, where she was admitted for observation. The following day a Paediatrician ordered an MRI for Bella and almost immediately the room filled with medical staff. Vanessa says, “a nurse and a doctor pulled Zane and I aside and explained that Bella had meningitis along with two large abscesses in her brain. If she didn’t get the urgent care she needed, it was unlikely she’d survive another night.”

Faced with the unimaginable, Vanessa and Bella were quickly rushed onto a Life Flight to Christchurch Hospital. A team of specialists met them in the ambulance bay and Bella underwent life saving neurosurgery soon after. In the rush of the emergency, Vanessa hardly had time to take stock until after Bella had been wheeled into surgery, and the enormity of it all hit her. “That flight seemed like the longest flight of my life with

Bella laying there barely conscious,” she says. “Then when I walked out of the surgical ward I just burst into tears, thinking that may have been the last time I saw Bella alive.”

While this was happening, Zane was racing around Blenheim packing suitcases, picking Ruby up from school and getting on a plane to Christchurch to be by Vanessa and Bella’s side. They were reunited and made their way to Ronald McDonald House in Christchurch, just a short walk from the hospital. As Vanessa explains, “we walked in those doors not knowing what to expect, but we were welcomed with open arms, warmth and understanding. Where we might sleep that night had been the last thing on our minds, so it was simply amazing to have a place like Ronald McDonald House take care of us.”

In the following days they moved back and forth between the hospital where Bella was recovering, and Ronald McDonald House. Vanessa says the team at the House became “like family” and they were blown away by how much was considered for them. “It was so comforting to know that at the end of the day when we were completely exhausted, we could retreat to Ronald McDonald House where a decent meal would be cooked, we could catch up on sleep and have some quiet time to make calls”. They also found the various amenities on offer a godsend to keep Ruby entertained – such as the library, playground and movies.

They gained strength from the other families staying at the House, along with the Ronald McDonald House team. “We’d often share our daily struggles with other families over a meal and support each other in whatever stage of the journey we were in. The staff and volunteers were so kind and caring, we felt so incredibly grateful and in awe of their generosity.”


This year the family are taking part in Host a Roast™ to raise funds for the work that Ronald McDonald House do. “We know first-hand how much it means to have a place to stay and be cared for when you’re in a different city with no one else to turn to,” Vanessa says. “It means you can concentrate on what matters most – being there for your loved one. We simply want to give back and support the amazing work they do!”


If you would like to register to Host a Roast™ this year and support families like the Monteiths, you can do so at



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