Family Stories

“We Watched as Captain America Presented Josh’s Family with His Shield.”

In April of last year, 3 year-old Keith Pitre was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML).  Treated in New Orleans, he went into remission.  In December, doctors there planned to remove his port, but his platelet count was extremely low. A bone marrow biopsy revealed that he had relapsed and that he needed a bone marrow transplant. In January of this year Keith and his family traveled from their home in Galliano, LA, south of New Orleans, to St. Jude for the operation.

When they first arrived, they spent 2 weeks at the Crowne Plaza and then came to Ronald McDonald House of Memphis for 2 months. “I absolutely love it here,” said Reanna, Keith’s mother.  “I did not want to stay in a hotel room again.  I kept saying ‘Try everything to get us into Ronald McDonald House.’”

 

Reanna explained well what the House means to them: “We have really enjoyed the socialization here at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Memphis.  We are not isolated, and everyone is friendly.  Keith loves all the toys at the Ronald McDonald House, especially the train track in dining room B.   He is not real outgoing because he has autism, but he is very comfortable here at the House.”

Reanna said that everyone in the family has had to make sacrifices, including her husband, Opie. He has been out of work since December, because he did not want his wife and son in a strange city so different from the small town in which they live. He was a captain on a supply boat, and since coming to Ronald McDonald House, he has stayed busy as an all-around handyman, moving furniture and fixing things.

After recovering from the bone-marrow transplant, Keith and his the family spent time at home in Louisiana, then returned for a check-up.  An examination revealed that he has developed GVHD, a liver disease and needed to spend more time in Memphis for treatment during the summer.

During his second stay, the Hardy Pantry was dedicated. Josh Hardy’s family had raised money to dedicate the pantry in honor of Josh’s memory and legacy.  Josh loved superheroes, Captain America especially, and the dedication party had that theme, complete with people dressed as superheroes.

            Reanna said, “I told Keith I would bring him down for cupcakes, but then he saw the Super Heroes. Keith is a big fan of Batman.” Keith ran straight to the superheroes, a response to new people that he would not normally do.   “To see his face light up was amazing. Keith held on to Batman’s leg. We watched as Captain America presented Josh’s family with his shield. It was Keith’s favorite day of all.”

Reanna added, “I do not want to forget anything about the House. We have made friends with families and staff as well.  Watching my son Keith get along with all the people is something that I never thought I would see.  I did not think I would ever see him this happy.   I am never going to forget this time at Ronald McDonald House. Being here has brought a sense of home to me.  I had never been out of my small town and came to Memphis.  Here at RMHC, I feel like I am home again.”

Posted by Lisa Haguewood at Wednesday, September 13, 2017 | 0 comments
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“She Thought They Were So Funny and Most of the Time They Were Not”

“We were on vacation in Florida.   I had a fever that would not break, unexplained bruising, and extreme fatigue every time I went outside in the heat,” said 19-year-old Tori from Pekin, IL.    

 

Tori was 5 days away from moving into college.  Instead, in August 2016, Tori began treatment for ALL, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, high risk.  The first 263 days of treatment,  Tori and her mother Tonya spent 141 at the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Memphis (RMHC Memphis). “My mom is my hero because my whole life she has given up things for me.  She took off work and stayed with me every trip we had to make to Memphis,”  Tori said.

 

Tonya said that Tori was expecting a roommate with whom she could share clothes and hang out. “She got a roommate, but it was me.  We feel the Ronald McDonald House is just like a dorm.  She enjoyed the community living and activities that the house offered.”

 

Tori said, “My favorite part of the House is how welcoming the staff is.  If you ever need something, they will stop what they are doing to help.”   

 

Tonya said, “Sherri (Director of House Operations) is always focused on working and running the house.  We got to know her and along with another family we would ask if we could cause trouble.  It became a joke every time we passed her office.”   

 

“Tori loved the candy bowl at the front desk.  She would stop by it everyday before and/or after her appointments, not for the candy, but for the Laffy Taffy jokes.  She thought they were so funny and most of the time they were not,” said Tonya.

 

Tori met a 15-year-old girl from West Virginia named Lindsey.  They became best friends and talk every day.   Lindsey is on the radiation side of treatment, and Tori is on the chemo side.  They make each other stronger and are learning how different the two treatments are.

 

At the House, Tori and Tonya loved the rocking chairs and sat in them every morning, waiting for the shuttle.  Tori really liked going to the House pantry because when she was on certain medicines, she was always hungry.   Tori enjoyed the House’s 25th year Celebration, seeing the decorated Christmas trees, decorating her room door, hiding Easter Eggs, participating in  teen activities, watching movies, and taking 3rd place in the RMHC Memphis Bad Dog 5K.

 

Tonya said, “We did not really understand what RMHC was all about before we arrived.  RMHC Memphis has really thought of everything to make the House feel like your home. I will never forget everything the House has done for our family when we were so scared about the needs and future of Tori.”

 

 “I would love to be an algebra teacher or a Child Life specialist and I never want to forget all the amazing people we have met at this House, ” Tori concludes.

Posted by Lisa Haguewood at Tuesday, June 6, 2017 | 0 comments
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“Every Day May Not Be a Good Day, But There is Good in Every Day.”

Emma enjoys playing games like “Sorry” and “Uno” with her Mom. Her favorite movie is “Facing the Giants.” On TV, she likes to watch “Liv and Maddie.” Emma said, “Meeting friends here at the house has been the best part. People like Emily, ‘Miss’ Sherri, Luz, and Jan. I never want to forget meeting Brock, my best friend. We started treatment the same day and met here.” 

Emma comes from a family of 7: her parents, John and Jenny, and Emma’s four siblings --Sam, Sarah, Grace, and Hannah. While at RMHC Memphis, Emma enjoys doing arts and crafts. She said, “It is fun living here and being 14. It is peaceful most of the time. “ Emma enjoys game night and says Bingo is one of the best things here. Eventually, Emma wants to be a Child Life Specialist at the hospital doing art therapy. 

When asked, “what keeps you positive?” Jenny answered, “The LORD. He is our 
strength. My strength left a long time ago but if I empty myself and let him fill it, I can make it.”  Then she quotes a piece of art that Emma made her which said, “Every day may not be a good day, but there is good in every day.” 

Posted by Lisa Haguewood at Wednesday, April 5, 2017 | 0 comments
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“I Cannot Forget the Outpouring of Love Here”

In pretty pink glasses and a matching outfit with headband, Rica who is almost 3 years old, often sings the song ”Jesus’ Love is a Bubblin’ Over” while performing the hand motions too. Her favorite part of the Ronald McDonald House Charities® Memphis is the playroom. Rica’s favorite thing to do with “Mommy” is to read a book about little black fish swimming in a school of red fish. She reads to her Mommy every night. Her favorite story in the Bible is Jonah and the Big Fish. Rica does not discriminate in her choice of toys since she enjoys cars, 
trucks and Spiderman. She loves to watch “Paw Patrol” and “SpongeBob Squarepants.” 

 

Rica’s diagnosis is bilateral retinoblastoma. Despite the challenges, every day she enjoys going to see “Miss” Sherri (Maxey, Director of House Operations), whose hugs she thrives on. She also loves “Miss” Sheila (Campbell, Director of Finance and Administration). 

Rica’s Mommy, Sonia, says, “It is nice to know I have people looking out for us. 
RMHC Memphis has been a home for me. I cannot forget the outpouring of love here. I was coming to America, this large country, from Jamaica, a small island. I really did not know what was ahead and they provided a home for me, some place where I can stay and be comfortable. 
All I have to think about is taking care of Rica. Rica came to a clinic where I was working in Jamaica. Her birth mother left her there. She was 6 weeks old when I took her in. I am her legal guardian. It is my duty to take care of her and get her back to good health. Thank you very much, RMHC Memphis. Please continue to do what you are doing so we can all be comfortable.” 

Posted by Lisa Haguewood at Wednesday, April 5, 2017
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Q&A with a Nonagenarian Volunteer

Jean, a nonagenarian (a person in his or her nineties) is a familiar face at the front desk of Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Memphis.   

She is currently re-reading a series of books about a couple of Siamese cats that solve crimes. Jean loves mysteries but it is no mystery why she volunteers here.


Tell me a little about your history.

 

I have lived in Memphis all my life.  I am 91 years old and have been here a long time.  I graduated from Tech High School.  After graduation, I went to San Diego and met my husband.   We married in 1944.  We had 3 sons, umpteen grandchildren and great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.    My husband was on a big battleship and it was torpedoed and then he was on a destroyer and that was torpedoed and sunk but he survived in the Pacific.   They tried to get back to Honolulu and the ship broke apart and they had to abandon ship.  No one on the ship was lost and they all got to Honolulu. He lived until 1989.

 

How long have you volunteered here and how often do you do it?

 

It has been so long, 18 or 19 years, on Tuesdays.  2 of my sons died of cancer and that was the only time I did not volunteer.

 

Why do you volunteer?

 

I like to help people and I love this place and feel like it is home.  As long as I am able to get up here and they will let me come, I’ll stay.

 

What is your favorite part of the house?

 

When I first started volunteering, Building A was all we had.   We only had one housekeeper so the volunteers had to do housekeeping on the common areas.  We washed windows, ran vacuum cleaners, and wiped everything down for sanitation.  When we got frost-free refrigerators, we thought we had died and gone to heaven because before that we would have to come in and boil water and let the frost melt out of the refrigerators.

 

What is your favorite part of what you do here now?

 

Well, the only thing I do now is sit at the front desk but I think I have done a little bit of it all down here.

 

What is it about RMHC Memphis that you appreciate?   

 

I appreciate what they do for families because I know what it is to lose a child. Only thing is mine were grown but I know what it is and what you are going through.  I know what it is to have a place where people honestly care about you.

 

What would you tell people who are considering volunteering at RMHC Memphis?

 

It is worth it because you get a sense that you are doing something worthwhile other than just sitting at home reading a book or going to the movies or out to eat.  You are honestly doing something worthwhile.

 

What is most special about RMHC Memphis?

 

It is what they give the families.  The families that stay here have everything.  They get a food allowance.  They take care of the families where they don’t have to worry about where the next meal is coming from or how am I going to pay for this or that.  It takes a lot of strain off of them because they are going through enough with their child being sick.   

Posted by Lisa Haguewood at Thursday, March 30, 2017
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