Welcoming Maddie and Mila

February 27, 2019
These six-week-old twins have inspired a song, written and recorded by their dad at RMHC Toronto.
When Jason Dunn is feeling emotional, he pours his heart out in song.

As a musician, he always has.

So it’s no surprise the January birth of Maddie and Mila, his twin daughters with his wife, Niamh (pronounced NEEVE), inspired a song. Jason, from Peterborough, Ont., also wrote a song following the birth of their 20-month-old son, Ryan.

But the song about the twins recounts a frightening time for the musical family.

Maddie and Mila were unexpectedly born five weeks early, and not only were they small, but Maddie was sick. Within three days of her birth, she had to be rushed to Toronto for specialized care and surgery to repair a perforated bowel.

“I’m a positive, no-big-deal kind of guy,” says Jason, “but with the birth of the girls, I was feeling stressed.”

January 10, 2019”, written and recorded by Jason in the hallway outside the family’s room at RMHC Toronto, chronicles Maddie’s and Mila’s arrival that day and the family’s immediate, intense love for them.

“Every time I held them, the lyrics to the song just came,” recalls Jason.

When Maddie was transferred to a hospital in Toronto, Jason and Niamh were torn in three directions. Ryan was at the family’s home in Peterborough. Mila was still at the hospital in Peterborough. And Maddie needed their care and attention in Toronto. After three exhausting days of commuting 140 km each way, the family was grateful to receive a room at RMHC Toronto.

“As soon as I heard the news, I thought, ‘We’re sorted. We don’t have to worry about anything now,’” recalls Jason. “A huge load came off our shoulders. I knew we were going to be in good hands.”

Dunn family at RMHC Toronto
Niamh and Jason with Mila at RMHC Toronto

In contrast to so many families who stay for the first time, Jason knew a lot about Ronald McDonald Houses. That’s because while touring with his rock band, Hawk Nelson, throughout the U.S. a decade ago, he and his bandmates often stopped by local Houses when they were in a city for a concert. They visited the House in Sacramento, Calif., as well as many other Houses along the West Coast and in Texas.

“We kind of made it a thing,” recalls Jason. “Whatever state or city we were in, we would go to Ronald McDonald House to visit with the families, hang out, bring our guitars, sing songs and even prepare meals. We saw the positive impact it could have.”

It never crossed his mind at the time that he would have a family and that they would some day need the support that a Ronald McDonald House and Family Room provides.

“I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but it’s been an interesting thing to experience, to be on the other side now,” he says. “You get to know other families on a much more personal basis.”

​Shortly after moving into RMHC Toronto, Mila was transferred from Peterborough to a hospital in Toronto, and Ryan came to live with Niamh and Jason at the House. It meant the family was united as much as it could be.

Jason and Ryan, visiting Maddie at the hospital

Ryan is a “daddy’s boy,” says Jason, so it was important for him to be with his parents. And once Mila was released from the hospital, it meant he could start practicing his skills as a big brother, waiting for the day that Maddie would also be discharged and the family of five could go home together.

Maddie did get that go ahead to go home on Feb. 15.
Niamh, who is also a professional musician, says RMHC Toronto helped the Dunns stay positive during a difficult time.

Being together meant they could squeeze in all the cuddle and sing-song time they needed.