Devastating story behind photo of boy in car ends with 'heartwarming' twist

A Western Australian mother’s heartbreaking plea for help has resulted in an outpouring of support from across the country.

A photo of Mackay’s six-year-old son Charlie went viral last week, after he was pictured rugged up in the front passenger seat of his mum’s ute.

The Perth pair had been living in the two-seater vehicle for three months throughout winter and couch surfing for a long time before that after becoming homeless.

During this period, Mackay would often not eat so that Charlie had food and they could put fuel in their car, all the while ensuring that her son got to school every day.

Charlie sitting in the front seat of his mum's ute after they became homeless.
Six-year-old Charlie and his mum Mackay had been living in their two-seater ute for three months after becoming homeless. Source: GoFundMe

Desperate to find somewhere safe to park her ute, the 38-year-old mother reached out to a Facebook community page in September for assistance.

In a twist of fate, it was Perth therapist Claire Orange who spotted the post and saved Mackay from danger.

“I saw her being chased [online] by a group of blokes who routinely go after women who are homeless with children and exceptionally vulnerable,” Ms Orange told Yahoo News.

“And between them they offer these women homes for sex."

After getting in touch with Mackay, Ms Orange said it was then a “no brainer” to open up her home as a “safe refuge” to the mother and son.

“I raised four children,” she said, “[but] only half of those live at home.”

“We have the room so why wouldn't you give a lovely family a home?”

Mackay often went without eating to ensure that Charlie would get food and took him to school every day. Source: 10 News
Mackay often went without eating to ensure that Charlie would get food and took him to school every day. Source: 10 News

After a month of the two families living under the same roof, Mackay and Charlie finally secured a home of their own south of Perth.

But still Ms Orange wanted to do more to help the “ferocious mumma” get back on her feet and so set up a GoFundMe page for ‘Charlie and Mackay’s new life.’

She had hoped to raise $5,000 but set a target of $10,000 “just on a wing and a prayer".

Within 10 days, more than $20,000 has been donated from 205 people.

Claire Orange.
Good samaritan Claire Orange described Charlie as "the most gorgeous boy" and said Mackay had "done such a good job raising him." Source: 10 News

Outreach of love and compassion

“It’s remarkable,” Ms Orange said. “It’s heartwarming and touching how generous people are.”

While monetary donations flew in, people from all over the country showed their support.

Residents offered up their furniture, a local bike store gifted Charlie a brand new bike and a little boy from Brisbane used up all of his pocket money to buy a present for the six-year-old.

“We’ve managed to patch together bits and pieces for her [Mackay’s] home,” Ms Orange said.

“We’ve had that lovely sort of community outreach of love and compassion for this woman.”

She added that Mackay has been in utter “disbelief” over the money raised.

Giving a little boy a future

The donations will not only help Mackay set up a family home but they’ll also be used to help Charlie, who has ADHD and speech and language delay.

“Obviously living rough there hasn't been a lot of focus on reading and literacy so he needs a lot of catch up work,” Ms Orange, who works in children’s mental health and wellbeing, said.

“So the money is to make sure that we get Charlie onto the right foot so that he can love his learning and go to school knowing that he can keep up."

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