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Mom Finds Peace in Ronald McDonald House Kitchen

Many people turn to a quiet place when they are feeling stressed, one Ronald McDonald House of Memphis mom eases her mind among the clanging of pots and pans.

“Back home my two favorite things are baking and gardening. I can’t garden here, so cooking is my outlet,” Shannon said. “At home the kitchen is the center of our house and we spend a lot of time there as a family.”

Shannon’s son Joshua was diagnosed with cancer two days before Thanksgiving and they traveled to Memphis to begin treatment soon after.

“After we moved in to Ronald McDonald House, I found that a lot of the families here do the same thing,” she said. “We all congregate in the kitchen once the kids are settled and talk about our days. We all bake together and offer each other support.”

“When you first find out your kid has cancer and you have to travel to Memphis, everything is just so hectic,” the California native said. “Once we got to Ronald McDonald House, we just started bonding with the other families and everything calmed down.”

“The kitchen is my sanctuary and I’m so grateful to have one to use here. After a rough day at the hospital, I go cook or bake. It is how I relieve stress,” she said. “Having the kitchens outside of the rooms is great. It forces you to come out of your room and interact with the other families. The connections and friendships you make with the other parents going through the something is what helps get you through this.”

“I’m so grateful for all of the friendships I have made here during the many late nights I’ve spent in the kitchen,” she said.

Posted by John Parie at Tuesday, July 19, 2016 | 0 comments
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Hospitality Inspires Family to Give Back

Carey used to drive by the Ronald McDonald House in her hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma all the time, but never really thought of the impact a Ronald McDonald House could have on her family. In May of 2016 that all changed when her son Drake was diagnosed with brain cancer.
“We really weren’t sure what to think when we were traveling to Memphis,” Carey said. “There is so much information coming at you at a time like that; it is a little overwhelming.”
Once they got settled in, they started to see what truly made a Ronald McDonald House special.

“I always tell people, ‘if you have to be away from home, this is a good place to be,’” she said. “When we get to go home for little breaks, I miss it here. I miss all of the bright colors and all of the little things that the staff provides for us. Most of all, I miss the support of the other families. They are always so comforting and really understand what you are going through.”
Carey wasn’t the only person in her family moved by her time at Ronald McDonald House of Memphis.

“My sister came to visit us when we first arrived and she was so touched by the hospitality and kindness she saw here that she went home and signed up to be a volunteer at her local Ronald McDonald House. She has already cooked two dinners for the families there,” she said. “On top of that, my cousin’s children have started setting up a lemonade stand on the weekends and donating the profits to the House here in Memphis.”

“If this experience has taught me anything, it’s that there is still a lot of goodness left in this world,” she said.

Posted by John Parie at Monday, June 27, 2016 | 0 comments
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Mom Finds Camaraderie at Ronald McDonald House

While some moms may be enjoying breakfast in bed, lunch at their favorite restaurant, or a spa day, this Mother’s Day, there are many moms, like Corren, that will be spending their special day at Ronald McDonald House of Memphis. For these strong and courageous moms, Ronald McDonald House of Memphis is exactly where they need to be as they help their children fight for their lives against a monster -- cancer. 

Hadlee, who dreams of being the tooth fairy one day, was diagnosed with Leukemia after a routine visit to the doctor in September 2015. Corren made the decision to travel to Memphis where she knew her daughter would receive the best care. But little did Corren know, she was also going to receive the best care, for herself, at Ronald McDonald House of Memphis.  

“I love the camaraderie here at Ronald McDonald House of Memphis. It’s comforting to know that at Ronald McDonald House, not only is Hadlee being taken care of, but so am I - - by the staff, volunteers, and other families,” says Corren. 

There’s not a day that goes by that you won’t find Corren in the kitchen, baking some cookies or stirring up her famous gumbo.  

“I love cooking and baking and making this home feel like my home,” says Corren. 

Hadlee celebrated her 5th birthday at Ronald McDonald House of Memphis. Like most little girls, she loves the color pink and she loves for her mom to push her as high as she can on the swing. Hadlee loves when her big sister has a break from school and is able to come stay with her at Ronald McDonald House.   

“I’m thankful every day that we have a place like Ronald McDonald House to come home to at the end of the day,” Corren said.

Posted by John Parie at Thursday, April 28, 2016 | 0 comments
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Keeping Family Close is Mom's Number 1 Priority

When Jill’s son, Brent, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, her first concern was getting him the best treatment possible, a close second was keeping her family together while he received treatment five hours away from their home in West Fork, Ark. 

Jill’s family has been staying at Ronald McDonald House of Memphis on and off since 2012, during which time Brent’s cancer has relapsed multiple times. 

“We had heard of Ronald McDonald Houses through the media and seen the change boxes at McDonald’s, but we didn’t really know what it was or how much of an impact it would one day have on our family,” Jill said. 

“I knew Ronald McDonald Houses took care of families, but I was really surprised how much of a family atmosphere they provide,” she said. “The House helped the kids relax and just be kids. We really got to just be a family here, like we would if we were back home.” 

Her family stayed in their room and kept to themselves when they first arrived at Ronald McDonald House, but they soon discovered the support system families provide for each other. 

“We fell in to a routine with some of the other families that were on the same chemo schedule as us and we quickly became friends,” she said. “We would meet up in the mornings before treatment and then come back from the hospital and the kids would play together.” 

“We would help each other out and watch each other’s kids if they needed to take care of something or just needed a break,” she said. “We called it the merging of the herds on account of how big the group would get when we would go out as one big group.” 

Jill said they have kept in touch with a bunch of the families they have met over the years and have even visited some of the nearby families when they were back home in West Fork between rounds of treatment. 

“I think some people come in not expecting such a warm atmosphere and truly happy place,” she said. “The bright colors on the walls and all of the decorations are very comforting and help you relax after a rough day at the hospital.” 

"It's not just the monetary donations that allow us to stay free of charge that make Ronald McDonald House special. The volunteers here are the greatest. From the college kids that play basketball with the kids, to the groups that come in and make home-cooked meals, we love them all.” 

“This House has allowed me to keep my family together and helped us make life-long friends,” Jill said. “I couldn’t imagine having to find a hotel while we are in Memphis or not being able to have my whole family with me. Being together as a family is the most important thing to me.”

Posted by John Parie at Tuesday, February 16, 2016 | 0 comments
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RMH Staff Helps Mom Remain Hopeful and Optimistic

Guest post by C.J. Kirkland

It was a mother’s intuition that brought Sharnelle and her son Jericho to Memphis and the Ronald McDonald House. It is her strength and the prayers of her ancestors that keep her going.   

When Jericho was diagnosed with retinoblastoma they were given a choice of two hospitals at which he could receive care. During their visit to the first hospital she was told all of the things they could not do, reminded of all the promises they could not make. She then spoke with doctors at the second hospital, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital here in Memphis. They shared with her all that they could do, and though nothing was promised, they reminded her of what possibilities did exist if treatment was successful. Sharnelle says that was confirmation that her gut was right: St. Jude was the place for them to be. After a short stay on St. Jude’s campus, they moved to the Ronald McDonald House.   

She shares that when they arrived at the Ronald McDonald House to check in, Glenda gave them “an uplifting sense of how it would be.” Sharnelle had to leave behind her other three young children to fight this battle with Jericho; it has been difficult. She says that Glenda made them feel so welcomed and this helped her tremendously as she braced for what was to come. Jericho would be receiving back-to-back chemotherapy treatments. He would go through two months during which he could not open his eyes. But Glenda set the stage, Sharnelle says, and she sees that Jericho’s strength is building right alongside her own.   

“I don’t have bad days,” she tells me. There are times when she is quiet, reflective, but is always reminded of her blessings. The staff has made it so easy for her to stay hopeful and optimistic, she continues. “Especially Jackie.” I can’t help but smile as Sharnelle talks of how much good Jackie has sown into their lives: she always takes the time to talk with them and play with Jericho (she and others at RMH know him affectionately as “Smalls”.) When the weather abruptly changed Jackie made sure that Jericho had a proper jacket, which he had not needed in warm New Mexico. There is pep in Sharnelle’s voice as she talks about Jackie and it is obvious the positive impact that’s been made in the short time they have been at RMH.   

Sweet 2 1/2 old year old “Smalls” has been very patient during our chat, even as his little yellow truck keeps falling to the ground. I lean over to pick it up and notice the patterned blanket draped across his stroller. This prompts me to timidly ask Sharnelle if she is Native American. A big smile forms across her face and she replies, “yes, Navajo.” I excitedly share that my husband is part Sioux and we talk about the collective strength drawn from the spirits of her Navajo tribe. It is the same strength I see in her and in her son. It is a strength that has been reinforced by the kindness shown to them by staff members like Glenda and Jackie at RMH, and a strength I hope continues to grow beyond measure.   

“Go forth in peace, be still within yourself, and know that the trail is beautiful. May the winds be gentle upon your face and your direction be straight and true, as the flight of the eagle. Walk in beauty and harmony with God and all people.” – Navajo blessing 

Posted by John Parie at Tuesday, January 26, 2016 | 0 comments
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