Share a Heart campaign raises money for area Ronald McDonald House
2 Cassville families share their experiences about the facility
The Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Ozarks Inc. has started its annual Share a Heart campaign to help families of ill and injured children, mainly from southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas.
Bonnie Keller, president and CEO at Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Ozarks, said all the money raised will directly support operating both houses in Springfield, which are located at 949 E. Primrose St., near Cox South Hospital, and at 1235 E. Cherokee St., on the sixth floor of Mercy Children's Hospital.
The operating cost to operate both houses is more than $800,000 per year. The 2014 campaign raised more than $131,000 for the two houses.
"Last year, we helped nearly 900 families," Keller said. "It will directly provide that home away from home for our families throughout the year."
In 2014, the Springfield houses helped 30 Barry County families who stayed for 261 nights, including families from Cassville.
About six months ago, Amanda Miller of Cassville gave birth to her son, Elijah, at Cox South Hospital.
He was born six weeks premature, Miller said. The doctors placed him in a neonatal intensive care unit. They diagnosed Elijah with intracranial hemorrhaging and hydrocephalus a few days after he was born.
Her husband, Justin Miller, stayed with her at the hospital while she recovered, she said. Her parents stayed at the Ronald McDonald House on Primrose for a couple nights before she was discharged. She and her husband stayed at the house for two months while Elijah was in the NICU.
"Ronald McDonald was a life saver," Miller said. "They just provided a lot of comfort for us during a hard time."
Amanda and Justin Miller had their own room. Different organizations or churches would provide a hot dinner each night.
"The fridge was always packed with sandwich stuff and leftovers," Amanda Miller said. "It was kind of like being at home.
"The staff at Ronald McDonald were also loving and caring. Every day when they see us in the halls or at dinner, they would ask how Elijah was doing today; how was his progress. They would say prayers with us. They were just real comforting to have during that time."
In late July or early August, Jesse Anthonysz, 12, of Cassville, required surgery to remove a cyst from his knee at Mercy Hospital. He had to stay overnight in the hospital.
The hospital staff suggested the family stay at the Ronald McDonald House, which was in the hospital, instead of driving to Cassville, said Janna Anthonysz, Jesse's mother. She and her husband, Noel Anthonysz, stayed one night.
She thinks the stay cost $7, she said.
"You do not have to give money if you do not have the available funds," Anthonysz said.
A church group also provided a meal, she said. The group prayed for her, Noel and Jesse, and it put them on a prayer list.
"The rooms are nice," Anthonysz said. "It is just like a house. Everybody was nice and took care of us."
The parents visited their son, who is a seventh-grader at Cassville Intermediate School, while he was recovering. The hospital discharged him the next day.
Miller said Elijah is much-improved since the family spent time at the Ronald McDonald House. He required oxygen when he came home, but is now breathing more clearly and does not need it.
"He is a little developmentally behind, but we work with a First Step program here in town," Miller said. "They come out, and they see him at the house to keep him developmentally on track and to keep building his muscles and to keep him going strong.
"He is doing so much better than when he was up there. He has made a lot of improvements."
Sometime in February, Elijah will get an electroencephalography to measure his brain activity, she said. He was having major seizures when he was in the hospital. He is still taking medication just to keep him from getting anymore seizures.
The Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Ozarks has asked more than 40 mayors in the region to support the campaign by proclaiming Feb. 9-15 as Ronald McDonald House Week in their towns.
The city of Cassville will be reading the proclamation at the Board of Alderman meeting on Feb. 9, said Darelyn Cooper, Cassville city clerk.
Local residents can adopt a red, a pink or a gold paper heart at the Cassville McDonald's, located at 93 Main St.] by donating $1, $5 or $20 to Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Ozarks. Contributors can then sign the heart, which will be displayed at the McDonald's through February.
Each heart comes with an official entry form for the March drawing where someone could win a $1,000 Great Southern Bank gift card. A donation is not necessary to receive an official entry form. The campaign ends Feb. 28.
For more information about the Share a Heart campaign, people may visit rmhcozarks.org.