extends his small, fisted hand toward Ronald McDonald, his eyes cast downward at
the clown’s yellow glove. In the photograph capturing the exchange, Elijah’s
father, Giles, holds the nineteen month old in his arms.
just started doing that fist bump,” Giles explains, grinning, “and to see him
doing that with Ronald McDonald was amazing.”
Although a scene like this might be more easily attributed to a child’s birthday
party, for Elijah, the fist bump occurred at the Ronald McDonald House which has
served as a home away from home while Elijah - who was born without a diaphragm
- undergoes treatment at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.
Area volunteers cook dinner nightly for guest families. For Giles, who had no
preconceived expectations for life at the House, the notion of a hot meal served
on something other than a plastic hospital tray was overwhelming. “I had to
fight back tears,” he says.
visit the Ronald McDonald House is to realize that, beyond the foundation of the
building itself, there also lies the foundation of an engaged and committed
community dedicated to easing the burdens of the guests. For families like the
Litzners, the House is more than just a physical space.
“We’ve been thinking of ways to give
back,” Giles says. “We have two lives,” he continues, referring to splitting
their time between the Milwaukee area and their hometown. “Honestly, we’ve been
calling the Ronald McDonald House our home.”
After two years of experiencing dizziness and fainting spells, Courtney was finally diagnosed with dysautonomia which requires such constant medical attention that she is one of the most frequent residents at the Ronald McDonald House Charities Eastern Wisconsin (RMH).
Courtney remembers her first stay at RMH well. Her mother said that it was such a relief “watching Courtney having fun with the other residents.”
Courtney is particularly interested in a jewelry-making workshops led by the art therapist. She is donating a bracelet she made to the annual Black Tie Gala auction held by the Ronald McDonald House. The beads spell out the words: Live. Laugh. Love. Courtney said, “I wanted to give something back because they treat me like I’m a person.”
“Most people don’t know what you go through when you have a sick child,” Connie said. “There are a lot of families that need this service.”
Seven-month-old Colton is a familiar face at Ronald McDonald House of Eastern Wisconsin. When Colton was two weeks old he was diagnosed with a heart defect. He was at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin for six weeks before he was able to get a heart transplant. Then Colton got a new heart.
Colton’s family tells us they noticed the welcoming atmosphere and the homelike quality of the surroundings as soon as they walked into Ronald McDonald House. They found relief from the long stressful hours spent in the hospital.
For many weeks Ronald McDonald House was their home-away-from-home. Staff and volunteers provided family dinners, art therapy, and yoga classes. Our van service to and from the hospital was very important for Colton’s mother and grandmother, who didn’t have a car. They made friends with other families staying at the House, finding community, comfort, and support.
“Without Ronald McDonald House and all the people here, I don’t know what we would have done,” says Colton’s mother. “I can’t even
Tony was diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia and needed a bone marrow transplant. Steve and Staci, Tony’s parents, needed a support system to help Tony at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and also care for his three sisters at home in Madison.
The Ronald McDonald House provided private extended stay accommodations as well as community space in which to escape the isolation of the hospital. “The Ronald McDonald House is so much more than a place to stay,” Steve and Staci agreed. “The medical team was responsible for getting Tony through his transplant and recovery. The Ronald McDonald House was responsible for getting our family through. It’s where we kept ourselves together so we could use our energy on the important things.”
Even happier than the day they got a room at the House was the day when they checked out 95 days later. Tony is back to out-patient status, and well enough to live at home in Madison.
Michael is thirteen years old and he is winning a tough battle against pelvic cancer. He spent four months having chemotherapy treatments and surgeries at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. In the beginning, Michael and his mom and dad were driving back and forth to their home in Zion, IL and it was taking a heavy toll on them both financially and emotionally.
When Michael needed to spend two straight months in the hospital, his mom and dad moved into the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Eastern Wisconsin and it was a “blessing” because they could spend every moment possible with their son.
It’s helpful to spend time with other families at the Ronald McDonald House, who have a unique perspective on their situation. “You meet a perfect stranger here, and you’ve got a lot of things in common, so you can really sit down and speak your mind, and share what you’re going through with them,” says Michael Sr.
Michael’s treatments have gone so well that his doctors think Michael will be able to live cancer-free.
Brandon had just become a big brother when he was
accidently run over by a lawn mower, causing him severe facial injuries down to
the bone on the left side of his face and severing his ear.
For two months, while Brandon endured intensive plastic surgery, his parents,
older sister and newborn baby sister found solace at the Ronald McDonald House.
Brandon’s stay in the hospital coincided with the Swine Flu epidemic, so the
newborn was not allowed into the hospital. This meant that Brandon’s mom and dad
had to rotate between visiting Brandon at the hospital and staying with the baby
at the House. They say that they never could have managed without a safe haven
close to their hospitalized son.
Brandon’s parents say that the Ronald McDonald House provided them with a
supportive network of other families in similar situations. It also gave them financial
relief by not having to commute two hours from their home and the peace of mind
to know that their child was safe at Children's Hospital right across the
When Betty was 12 years old, she was diagnosed with leukemia. She began treatment at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin but still her illness worsened and Betty sank into a coma for four months. Her parents then moved into the Ronald McDonald House to be by Betty’s side every day. There, they found hope and support while they prayed for their daughter’s recovery. Betty finally woke up from the coma, but doctors had to amputate both her legs below the knee because of poor circulation.
Betty and her parents moved back into the Ronald McDonald House for the second time as she continued her recovery. The family likes to relax in the House’s Secret Garden and participate in the dog therapy program at the House. The Ronald McDonald House has been not only a residence for Betty’s family; it is a haven from the chaos of hospital visits. Betty says that being there has helped them interact with other families going through similar situations and helps them realize they are not alone.