A home away from home

Thursday, January 29, 2009

For several years now we have been helping to promote the Share Your Heart campaign that raises money for the Ronald McDonald House of the Ozarks in Springfield. The campaign encourages area citizens to adopt a heart by donating $1 to the Ronald McDonald House when they visit the Cassville McDonald's. It's great to see red hearts taped up on the windows of the restaurant and know the money is going to such a good cause.

The Ronald McDonald House of the Ozarks is located in Springfield and is one of hundreds located across the country. The facility provides a home away from home for families who have seriously ill or injured children who must travel to receive medical treatment. Some local citizens may question why they should support a project located in Springfield, but that's the point. The Ronald McDonald House is used by those living outside of Springfield who travel many miles so their child can receive medical care there. Since the facility opened in 1988, 413 Barry County families have utilized its services, and of those families, 72 were from Cassville.

We were one of those Cassville families served by the Ronald McDonald House of the Ozarks in July of 1989. That was the summer that our youngest son, Ryan, was born with a medical condition that forced him to stay in the NICU for several days after I was released from the hospital. It's a gut-wrenching, horrible feeling to have to leave your newborn at the hospital. You feel scared and empty and lost. Rather than having to drive back and forth to Springfield each morning and night, we were able to stay at the Ronald McDonald House until doctors were able to diagnose his condition and send us on to St. Louis Children's Hospital. And once in St. Louis, we again utilized the Ronald McDonald House that was located just blocks from Children's Hospital. Even though my parents live in St. Louis, we chose to stay at the Ronald McDonald House, because we felt closer to Ryan that way.

I can't tell you what a blessing those two houses were to us. We could spend as much time at the hospital as we wanted and then head back to the Ronald McDonald House and just crash. Both facilities were lovely - one located in a newly built home and the other in a remodeled centuries old home - and the staff and other families staying there provided the kind of company we needed at the time. When you have a sick child, it consumes you, and it was nice to be around people who understood completely what you were going through. You could talk to other parents if you wanted or you could just keep to yourself and people just understood.

If you ask anyone who has utilized the services of a Ronald McDonald House, I know their experience will be very similar to ours. The facility offers parents a way to stay close and connected to their precious child who for one reason or another is having to spend prolonged time in the hospital. And for that, my family and the other 412 Barry County families who have used the Ronald McDonald House of the Ozarks are forever grateful to the charity who makes these "homes away from home" possible.

So now when you're asked to donate that dollar between Jan. 27 and Feb. 14, you can know you are contributing to a great cause. Every Ronald McDonald House family thanks you, and you have become part of a campaign that makes a real difference to families living in the Ozarks.