Thursday, July 24, 2008

RMH-- a Wonderful Cause

Most of us are lucky, and go through life caring for our children who are for the most part healthy. A broken bone here and there, a cut lip, but nothing earth shattering. But how often do we wonder about the millions of families throughout the world who have children that are desperately ill and fighting for their lives? Probably only as often as we see a commercial pertaining to it, or a special on TV. And what do these families do when their world is turned upside-down and they have to leave home so their child/children can be treated at a specialty hospital? Hopefully for them they have medical insurance to cover their needs, but let's face it, many don't. But something you probably never think about is, where do these families stay while their children are being treated far from home? In a hotel? Well, for a family with excess money that might just work, but what about the multitudes who live paycheck to paycheck? The hospital certainly isn't going to set them up with a room and feed them three times a day for an unforeseen length of time.

This is when many families turn to the welcoming arms and open doors of Ronald McDonald House. For a qualifying family this can be the difference between being able to get their child good health care or having to settle for second best. Ronald McDonald houses all throughout the nation give these families a sense of home and stability that they would not have in a hotel, or driving back and forth from home to a distant hospital. No parent wants to be far from their sick child, and because Ronald McDonald houses are usually built right near the best children's hospitals, these lucky families don't have to worry about that.

Depending on how you look at it, last night I had the fortune (or misfortune) to visit our local Ronald McDonald house in Jacksonville and spend some time there. No, I was not volunteering. My sister, Jill, her husband Mark, and my two nieces, Alexa and Gianna are living there this week, as Gianna is having eye surgery done tomorrow. I say they are "living" there instead of "staying", because when you are there you feel as if you're in a home. A rather large home, but a home nonetheless. I can't even express to you how impressed I was with their facility from the moment I walked in the door. Upon entering, you're in what looks like a huge parlor with beautiful furnishings and a smiling face at the front desk. Visitors must sign in and wear a visitor's tag the whole time they're there. I was not allowed to roam the house by myself, but had to be with either Jill, Mark, or one of the girls. Safety is a huge issue in a RMH, as is cleanliness. Everywhere you turn there is hand sanitizer and plastic gloves to be worn in the kitchen if you are to handle any food. They have laminate floors throughout to cut down on allergens and for quick sterile cleanups.

The kitchen is beautiful, with solid surface counters, maple cabinets and lots of gleaming appliances. They have a huge "community" refrigerator in the kitchen, which is filled daily by donations. In the pantry room is another refrigerator filled to capacity, and a freezer loaded with fresh meat and vegetables for all and any to use. Again, all donated. You can also bring in your own food and keep it labeled so no one else uses it. Fresh baked goods are donated every morning, (which of course impressed me!) and each night dinner is delivered by a different organization or family.

Off to the side of the kitchen is a large dining room with at least 10 tables, so families can cook their meals in the kitchen and then sit down and eat as if they were at home. It was Alexa's birthday yesterday, so Jill brought in a huge sheet cake to share with everyone in the house. They made an announcement into the rooms, and they all started coming out of the woodwork with their noses sniffing the air. Cake will do that to people. Somehow I got suckered into doing the cake cutting, (gloves on hands!) and it made me feel good to share our special occasion with the kids and parents staying in the house.

Here's Alexa blowing out her birthday candles. My Mikayla is on the left, Madison on the right. I think the girl all the way to the left is named Brianna, who has become a great friend of Alexa's. Behind the girls you can see the expansive kitchen.

Here's Aunt Tiney cutting the cake while Alexa oversees. Why is my head chopped off, Jill?

Me and Alexa as she opened her presents from us.

A horrible picture of me and Jill. You'll have to excuse the quality of these photos. They were taken with Jill's phone.

Mark pulled me away for a quick tour of the house, and floor by floor (there are 3) I was stunned by the amount of thought that went into the decor and sense of comfort throughout. Each floor has several different family rooms set up with beautiful leather furniture, flat screen TVs, book shelves and toy areas. There are also computer rooms on each floor for those who want to go online and touch base with friends and family. By the end of the tour I kind of wanted to stay there myself for a few days!

While the girls had some fun on the little playground, I sat in the screened-in smoking porch with Mark and Jill and told them how impressed I was with the RMH and how I am so thankful that it's there for them in their times of need. Not only do they have Gianna with Cornelia de Lange Syndrome and a host of medical problems caused by it, but Alexa has epilepsy, among other things. If it wasn't for the Ronald McDonald house I honestly don't know what they'd do. They're considered low income and in no way could afford to stay in a hotel every time one of the girls needed to have procedures or surgeries done. Sure, they could stay at my house, but that's still a 30 mile trip, they'd be far from their sick one, and gas prices are outrageous!

I wish I would have thought to bring a bag filled with household products because they're always in need. But I am going to make a donation tonight, and will continue to make small donations in the future. I called the Ronald McDonald house today and spoke to one of the women I met last night, thanking her for letting us visit, and letting her know that they're doing a spectacular job. I also told her I would like to put something on my blog for donations and she thought that was just great. So, that's what I'm going to do.

So bloggers, if you have even one dollar you could spare, me and my whole family sure would appreciate it. The Jacksonville RMH has done so much for Jill, Mark, and the girls in the last year and I know they'll continue to be supportive in years to come, and that's because of small donations from people like us. We truly can and do make a difference in the lives of people with children who have special needs. We make it possible for them to have shelter, food, and a cozy place to call home during the toughest times. Below, click below the RMH logo and it will take you to the home page, where you can click on donations. Thank you bloggers!!!!!!!!!

Ronald McDonald House Jacksonville

Good luck with your eye surgery tomorrow, Poopy Pants! Aunt Justiney loves you!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Until next time, Justine :o )

18 "Sister" Lovin' Friends Said:

  • The Scarlett Rose Garden

    Beautiful post Justine~
    I'm sorry that anyone has to be there, but comforted that since they do have to be there that the RMH has high reviews.
    Hope the surgery goes A-OK.

  • morninglight mama

    Best to your niece!! What a bright side to an extremely challenging time.

  • Four in Costa Rica

    Hey Justine, I know I haven't been on as much since I'm using my parents' slower connection here, but I'm so glad I stopped by your blog tonight. What a lovely post. RMH really seems like a wonderful facility for families.

    I hope Gianna's eye surgery goes well. And happy birthday to Alexa! How sweet to share the cake with everyone--makes for a fun time, doesn't it?


  • Elizabeth

    My thoughts are w/ your niece tomorrow! At the school where I teach we support our local RMH by collecting aluminum can tabs for recycling, as well as having a t-shirt design contest & sale each year.

  • Picket

    Oh girl...I will be praying that everything goes well for your sweet niece..I am sure being in such a supportive enviroment and having you and your family's love and support it has helped with the little one's is hard enought for an adult to have to face such things...great post sweetie..I hate the circumstances..keep us posted girl.

  • Kathy

    Hi Justine, RMH sounds like a wonderful place with such caring people, I hope your niece's surgery goes well and wish her a very speedy recovery. Kathy.

  • Life on Bonnie Lane

    So sorry to hear that your niece has to have surgery, but so glad to hear the family is blessed to be able to stay at the RMH. I had a friend whose daughter was seriously ill, and she doesn't know what she would have done without RMH.

    Give Gianna my best and I will have her in my prayers!


  • artis1111

    We have one here and a friend works there. Great post. Kathy

  • Bridget

    I'll be saying prayers for Gianna! Please let us know as soon as you hear how she's doing.
    Hugs, Gigi

  • Tismee2

    hope all goes well, it's never nice to be in hospital.

    Those places look great - just what families need. I'm not sure if we have anything like that here - I've been fortunate enough not to have needed it. But if we don't we should.

  • Shelia

    Morning Justiney! Oh, what a blessing the Ronald MacDonald houses are. We have one here and the ladies from our church go over once a year and prepare a dinner for the residents. It just breaks your heart! Hope little Gianna surgery goes well. Now you be a sweetie today!
    Shelia :)

  • onlymehere

    I'm glad you brought attention to this cause. I have a friend who's son had a brain tumor when he was about 4 years old and they stayed there. He came through it well but sadly it recurred and he died at 20 from it. Adult cancer patients have the same difficulties with the cost incurred by loved ones staying near by. Our cancer center in Salt Lake has a program to help the families have a place to stay. I have a dear friend who died in his early 30s from leukemia and this program helped his wife and children immensely. I'll keep your sweet love one in my prayers and hope all goes well.

  • French

    Morning Justine! What a wonderful place RMH is! Keeping fingers crossed and saying prayers that the surgery goes well! Hugs to you and the family;) French

  • Penny

    What a cute, cute girl! Thanks for sharing this story Justine.

    Hugs to you and your family,

  • Anonymous

    Hi everyone! Thank you for all your support it helps us through these tough times! Gianna is in a lot of pain but she is a trooper and I know in my heart she will be back to herself soon! I want to formally thank my sister for coming all the way to the RMH to celebrate Alexa's birthday, by her and my nieces being here it made it feel more like home. The RMH has blessed our family and we are so thankful for it and the people who work and volunteer their time here. For the last year it has been our second home that we visit no less than once a month. Thank you again and please support your local RMH when you can.


  • SchmeckyGirl

    Awesome post! I never really knew anything about the RMH until I met you and this post really helped understand it a lot better.
    It's great that Jill and Gianna have this in their time of need.

    Oh and I made a donation! Seriously, I did. Hope others do too.

    First I clicked on the logo and just got the logo again. lol.

  • Raxx - A day in the life

    This was a great post! Justine you are a softy! It is confirmed now! ha ha,

    Projects like RMH are the things that make me admire America.

    I pray for your niece as I have a nephew that underwent eye surgery as well.

    Off to read the update!


  • Buffie

    What a pretty picture of Gianna!