Prior to 2014, when Chelsea and her mom Vicki thought about Memphis, the first thing that came to mind was Elvis Presley and barbecue; now they associate Memphis with new friends, Ronald McDonald House and Southern hospitality.
The McMinnville, Tenn., natives traveled to Memphis after Chelsea’s cancer relapsed late last year and moved in to Ronald McDonald House of Memphis soon after their arrival.
“At first we were in one of the normal rooms,” Vicki said. “Once they finished the two new apartments, we moved in to one of those.”
Each apartment has two bedrooms and one bathroom, a full kitchen, living room, dining area and washer/dryer. The renovation was made possible by converting an attached 2 bedroom/2 bath apartment that had been a resident manager’s unit.
“The apartments really did feel like a ‘home-away-from-home,’” she said. “The way they are decorated, it doesn’t feel like you’re at the hospital. The beach house decorations make it relaxing and comforting when you come in. It’s been a stress reliever after a hard day at the hospital. The best thing about staying in one of the apartments is all of the extra space. Chelsea is a teenager and sometimes she just needs to go to her room and have a little alone time to talk with her friends back home or watch TV.”
While the apartments do feature their own kitchen areas, Vicki and Chelsea love the evening dinners cooked by volunteer groups.
“Sometimes we’re at the hospital all day long and when we come back we’re really tired and I don’t feel like going in to the kitchen and trying to find something for dinner,” Vicki said. “We love the groups that come and make dinner so you can always come down and have a dinner and not have to worry about trying to put one together.”
When they aren’t at the hospital or taking part in one of the many activities at the House, Vicki and Chelsea are exploring the growing restaurant scene in Memphis. Being from a small town with limited dining options, Memphis offers them a much wider variety of choices. One other thing they discovered was the generosity of Mid-Southerners.
“Memphis Pizza is like our favorite place,” Vicki said. “We also love Osaka, Yolo, Newks and McAllisters Deli. The people of Memphis are very nice. We have gone out to eat and some anonymous person will pick up our bill. It’s kind of pretty amazing. The first time it happened I think I cried.”
“We were confused at first because the lady was like, ‘You don’t have a ticket,’” Chelsea said. “The waitress said ‘someone else already paid for it.’ I was like oh my gosh!”
“The biggest thing we are going to miss when we go home are all of the friends we have made,” Vicki said. “The support we’ve had during our time at Ronald McDonald House has been fantastic. The families all care for each other and the staff is great.”