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!!!!!!!!!
Good luck with your eye surgery tomorrow, Poopy Pants! Aunt Justiney loves you!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Until next time, Justine :o )