Family Stories

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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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Best Friends Together In the House

5 years ago in a Sunday school class in Louisiana, Julianne and Hailey met for the first time.  No one knew then that they would go on to be best friends and would eventually be growing up together in the Ronald McDonald House of Memphis.

Both girls are 12 years old and undergoing radiation.  Julianne is from Watson, LA and has a Glioma brain tumor.  20 miles away, Hailey is from Walker, LA and has Ewing’s Sarcoma.   

While Julianne was diagnosed long before Hailey, Hailey started radiation first for her bone cancer.  Doctors found Julianne’s inoperable brain tumor when she was almost five years old and watched her for 7 years.   They wanted Julianne to start radiation for the first time this year.    

Julianne’s mother Stacey shared, “All this time, Hailey and her mom, Dawn, learned a lot about St Jude from us because we had been going for 7 years.  We knew there was a possibility that we would have treatment at some point which would be radiation but we never knew when it was going to happen.  Then, Hailey started chemo and radiation first.  So Hailey was able to share with Julianne what radiation was about before she started.  They were able to talk about what they are going through together but also be there for each other because we are away from home.  Julianne and Hailey have each other to go through it together.  And Dawn and I have each other and our husbands have each other.“

Hailey got to the Ronald McDonald House 5 weeks before Julianne.  Hailey said, “Julianne since day one, she has been there when I am down, making me smile.  Our friendship is more like sisters, we don’t fight, we get along, we love each other.”   Hailey described Julianne as “caring, helpful, and sweet.”

       Julianne said,  “Being with Hailey is my favorite thing about this house. She inspires me and is my hero.  She is always there for me and is my supporter.”  Julianne described Hailey as “funny, supportive, and caring.”

While living in the Ronald McDonald House, the girls enjoy playing on the swings outside, being in the teen room where they can meet lots of people, and playing pool and Pacman.

Hailey especially likes the living room, the kitchen, and the playroom and says, “I like how they supply all kinds of snacks and foods.”

Stacey was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis last year and her husband had to take off work to help. She explained,  “This is a difficult journey so it is nice not having to worry about having a roof over our heads. As a parent, you just get to sit and get to know the other families which you can do a little over at the hospital but there you are from appointment to appointment.  Here you can connect more with the other parents and the other kids too, get to know each other’s stories and be there for each other.”

Dawn added, “Ronald McDonald House is way better than having to stay in a hotel room especially when you have to be here a longer time.   The space here - it helps.  You can’t worry and doubt, you have to stay strong and get through it.  They have their moments of bad times but the kids are always smiling and trying to lift each other up.

Hailey said to the Ronald McDonald House of Memphis, “Thank you for all the support you have given to my family and everybody else.  What you give is what we really need.”
Posted by Lisa Haguewood at Thursday, March 30, 2017
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First Family Returns to Ronald McDonald House

Ronald McDonald House of Memphis recently had a very special family visit the House during its 25th anniversary celebration week.

The Denman family, the first family to stay here, returned to Memphis to tour the House for the first time in more than 20 years.

Danette Denman’s son Adam was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma several years before Ronald McDonald House of Memphis first opened its doors. Their stays in Memphis while he received treatment were much different before they moved into the House in 1991.

“Not having a car, I washed our laundry in the tub and used the garbage can as a refrigerator. The portable electric burner in the corner on the floor was my ‘stove’ for those macaroni and cheese attacks Adam would frequently have. As the weeks went by, the walls seemed to get a little closer,” Denman wrote in the first Ronald McDonald House of Memphis newsletter. “The loneliness we felt became unbearable.”

Moving into the House gave the Denman’s a kitchen to cook in, on-site laundry facilities and other families to talk to that were going through the same things they were.

"There are a lot of emotions returning here," said Denman. "It's been a long time since I've been here."

"I was just glad to have a clean, nice place to come back to after a long day at the hospital," said Denman. "It's a happy place. The colors have changed since we have been here, there have been changes for the good and they've implemented a lot of really nice things for the families."

When the Denman’s were last here, the House only had 24 rooms, compared the 53 it now has. The House didn’t have the family game room, teen room or meditation room – just to name a few of the upgrades and special touches that have been done over the years.

"The House is everything I always remembered," said Denman. "The people in Memphis are wonderful and the hospitality's great...Memphis is home away from home and it always will be."

The one thing that hasn’t changed since Ronald McDonald House of Memphis opened its doors is it is still a “home-away-from-home” for families going through one of the most difficult times of their lives.

Posted by John Parie at Wednesday, September 14, 2016 | 0 comments
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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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