Family Stories

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 10:30 AM
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