Ever since he was 16 months old Luke Turnbull, 13, has been in and out of hospital from months at a time with severe allergies.
During those hospital stays in Sydney hospitals every year of his life Luke and his family were helped by Ronald McDonald House. He has never forgotten what the assistance meant for them or the number of other families positively impacted by the McDonald's charity.
Not only was his family assisted with accommodation during his hospital stays he also had access to a tutor who helped him keep up with his schooling. And with McHappy Day approaching he wanted to do something for the charity so it can help more children.
Luke has always been creative and had an interest in the arts. When he heard Carol Gibbs, who is involved in a youth art initiative to provide young children with and opportunity to exhibit in the Imaginarium space at Shellharbour Village last weekend, he jumped at it..
During COVID-19 there have been fewer exhibits and when Mrs Gibbs knew the space was free she put a call out for someone to exhibit and Luke put his hand up. He said he wanted to display 12 photographs and make them for sale so he could raise money for Ronald McDonald House.
"I sold most of them and raised $560.00," he said.
Among those who attended the exhibition and bought an image was his tutor Karen Stewart who bought one of his photos.
"I asked him to sign the back of it for me. I do individual tutoring to help sick children catch up on their schooling. When I retired from teaching my principle at the time had a young child who needed a tutor. He put my name forward and that is how I started."
Shellharbour Mayor Marianne Saliba said Luke's efforts were a wonderful example of giving back to a charity that had helped him and was something to be admired.
"He is a really great role model for other young people in out city," Cr Saliba.
"One of my family members was fortunate enough to get the benefits of Ronald McDonald House when their daughter had a brain tumor. So I know how important those facilities are to give people from regional and rural areas an opportunity to stay near the hospital and access the medical services their children need.
McDonald's Warilla manager James Dwarte said Luke's fundraising effort was a great kick start to McHappy Month which started this week and will culminate with McHappy Day on November 14.
Mr Dwarte said the annual fundraising event was more important than ever this year because other fundraising for the children and family cause had been hamstrung during COVID-19.
He described Luke as a great inspiration.
"It is unbelievable what he has done. We are very appreciative of what he has done. It is definitely going to mean a lot to the charity and the families it is going to help."
Luke's mum Jennifer Turnbull said he has always been interested in creativity. Last year he entered an environmentally based sculpture in Sculptures at Killalea and won the People's Choice Award.
"I took the prize money from that to get my camera which I used to take photos I exhibited at Shellharbour," Luke said.
That was a winter expressions theme and the response to his work has inspired him to do a summer expressions series and hold another exhibition in early 2021.
"I might also come on McHappy Day and take some photos. I want to help Ronald McDonald House because when I was younger I was in hospital a lot. I missed so much school they helped me not fall too far behind with my schoolwork. And when I was in hospital I saw lots of sick kids and I just want to give to them."
After meeting Luke on Thursday the Dwarte family asked him to come along to the Warilla store on McHappy Day and exhibit more of his photos. He said he would and will make them for sale so he can raise more money for Ronald McDonald House in its most difficult fundraising year.
Luke is now in Year 7 at Corpus Christi but this year has been very disrupted by COVID-19 so it has been more difficult for all students in that year across the Illawarra to settle in.
But he has been taking everything in his stride.
Mrs Tunbull said she and her husband Glen Turnbull were very proud of Luke.
"He is a really good person. He is great, he is tops and we love him," she said.
As he did when Nan Tien Temple discovered his sculpture, decided to display it in the art gallery at their university campus at Unanderra and invited him to the exhibition opening.
For McHappy Month customers can donate at the counter, buy helping hands for $2 that goes directly to Ronald McDonald House. And $2 from every Big Mac sold also goes to the cause.
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