I wanted to gain some perspective from a family that had previously stayed in the House. I was introduced to the McGees who now spend their time volunteering to help raise funds for Walk for Kids, an annual pledge event that benefits the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern California. Their son Malake was born with a number of complications, and after visiting the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, Michael and his wife Umeka were sent to spend some time at the House a couple years ago.
LN: How did you first react when you found out about the Ronald McDonald House?
McGee: We didn’t know we could stay until someone told us about it. A lot of people don’t really know about the House and I think sometimes people don’t believe it exists. This is a REAL house. A real place for people to stay. It is a real home. Plus you are close to the hospital where your child is staying. But I think the best part about being here is to hear everyone’s story. Sharing your experience with other people just helped so much.
LN: So can you tell me a little bit more about what we are experiencing tonight, with these large group meals?
McGee: What is going on tonight is something called a Meals of Love. This is the part of the charity that really helps families because you get to interact with other people. For the parents especially, nights like tonight put your mind at ease. It allows them to take a minute to be social with other people, instead of worrying. The other thing is not having to worry about cooking or when you are going to have time to eat. We are able to buy our own groceries and cook, but the Ronald McDonald House fed us so much when we were here, I don’t think our family had to do that! Plus, during the holidays like Christmas, the organization goes out of the way to make the kids feel special. This year they brought in Santa Clause and sometimes Ronald McDonald himself will come by to say hello to the kids. This place is really a home away from home.
LN: I understand there is an event coming up called Walk For Kids to raise money for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern California. Can you tell me a little more about that?
McGee: Families that stay in the house can be local, or travel from far away, including overseas. Families need this place to come home to. What Walk for Kids does is help generate money for things the house needs. Essentially, stuff you would buy for your home. The event is here to help raise money for the Ronald McDonald House and the families that reside in it.
LN: As a parent, what kind of piece of encouragement or advice can you give to families struggling with a story similar to yours?
McGee: You have got to keep your head up and pray. You need to stay focused on your child getting well; this means helping them to get better by offering them love and support.
A home away from home. That is what the Los Angeles Ronald McDonald House is about.
As I stare at the large silver tables, Sacre chowing down on some chicken while kids finger paint at the end of the table, I just can’t stop smiling. You end the kind of evening I had with an overwhelming feeling of love. It reminds you that the superficial things in life really don’t matter. These families and children are just like yours. Pasta night is the most popular night at the House, where the kids love the classic spaghetti with red sauce. The Los Angeles Ronald McDonald House also has a full set of grills, so during the summer everyone can have their own version of a backyard BBQ. When you look past the fact that some of those in the room with you may have a disease or disability, there isn’t anything differentiating the families from your own.
Needless to say, I left the Ronald McDonald House reminding myself to take nothing for granted.
If you can, do me a favor; tell someone today that you love them. Give a big smile to the next stranger you pass on the street. Hug an enemy. Because you never know what could happen next. Life is all about perspective.
Next Page: Finishing Up With Sacre, RMD House