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Katie & Nora – “The Ronald McDonald House is a safe place to come home to each night after long hours in the NICU.”

In June 2019, Katie Hahn was surprised to learn that she was in labor with her daughter, Nora, a full two months before her due date. Because Nora was born early, she needed to be monitored in the NICU at St. John’s hospital, which was about a 45-minute drive from Katie’s home in Decatur.

One of the nurses told Katie about the Springfield Ronald McDonald House, and thankfully, Katie was able to get a room at the House so she could stay nearby her daughter. Katie said that she had always heard of Ronald McDonald House but never really knew what the organization did or how it might help her so much in her time of need one day.

Katie explained that the most helpful part of staying at the House was being so close to her daughter. When your child is sick and in the hospital, the last thing you want to worry about is how you will afford to stay in a hotel or travel back and forth to your house.

“The House is a money saver, a time saver, and a life saver. It is a safe place to come home to each night after long hours in the NICU.”

Today, Nora is just shy of 1 year and 9 months old. She runs around her house like any toddler, and you would never know that she was born two months premature.

Families who stay at our Springfield and Peoria Houses are never asked to pay, and they are able to stay for as long as needed while their child is receiving medical care. The donations that you make directly benefit families like Katie’s. Please Donate Today!

Emma had her Family close by at the Ronald McDonald House of Peoria, Illinois

This is Emma. She was born in 2007, with a rare genetic disorder called Prader-Willi syndrome. Prader-Willi is a complex genetic condition that affects many parts of the body. For many years, Emma was doing well and her parents and family had managed the syndrome with few issues.

However, in early 2020, her parents, who live in Danville, IL, noticed some changes, and Emma was rushed to the emergency room. After an examination, doctors decided that Emma needed to be transferred to OSF Children’s Hospital of Illinois in Peoria, IL, which is about 2 hours from their home.

When they arrived at OSF Children’s Hospital of Illinois, Emma’s parents learned that she was in heart failure and needed to be put in a medically induced coma. At this time, Emma’s life was hanging in the balance, and as her mom Chasity, explained, her condition changed minute to minute.

One of Emma’s nurses told Chasity about the Peoria Ronald McDonald House. After a short application process, Chasity was relieved to learn that they had a room to stay in at the House while Emma recovered. Instead of staying in the cramped PICU room, with a glass sliding door, Chasity and her family had a private suite where they could rest and recharge, without being far from Emma. As Chasity explained, the staff and volunteers at the Peoria House “think of everything and help you however they can. They even had a toothbrush and toothpaste for us, which was nice since we had left home in such a rush!”

Thankfully, Emma recovered and was able to go home, and today she is doing well. Families like Emma’s are who you help when you give a gift to RMHCCI today!

Jana Rose & Rawley – “From the minute you walk into the House, it is the most beautiful, loving, supportive place”

Thirteen years ago, a little boy was born three months early. He came into this world weighing only two pounds, with two holes in his heart and two blood clots on each side of his brain. His name was Rawley Sisson, and his mom, Jana Rose, knew that they would have a long health journey ahead of them.

Today, Rawley continues to face medical issues, but more importantly, he is a vibrant teenager who loves Baby Yoda and playing video games. Due to his medical issues, which include heart, kidney, and lung disease, Elhers Danlos syndrome, autism, separation anxiety, Tourette syndrome, and PTSD, Rawley and Jana Rose are often in Peoria, seeing one of his 18 specialists at OSF Children’s Hospital of Illinois.

For many years, Jana Rose’s parents drove Jana Rose and Rawley back and forth from Rock Island to Peoria every week, sometimes multiple times a week. In 2019, though, while eating dinner at Obed & Isaac’s to celebrate a successful procedure of Rawley’s, Jana Rose learned about the Peoria Ronald McDonald House that would soon be opening. Now, instead of having to make the long trip back and forth multiple times, Jana Rose was able to organize and schedule pre-surgery authorization tests, surgeries, and – starting in 2020, COVID tests – together, and stay at the Peoria House from the date of pre-work until after the surgery (or surgeries) were completed and Rawley was released to go home. To say the House has changed their lives and made difficult situations easier would be an understatement.

When asked about her favorite part about staying at the Peoria House is, Jana Rose said:

“From the minute you walk into the House, it is the most beautiful, loving, supportive place – mentally, spiritually, and physically. Everyone who works there completely cares about your child and your situation and wants to be sure that you have everything you need. They set you up with all of the basics (room, shampoos, meals), but then they also have extras, like a toy room for your child to pick out a new toy. They go every extra mile to make sure that while you are there, you and your child are able to forget about why you are staying there. When your child is sick, it is the most heart-wrenching thing you have to go through. The comfort that the House provides to you lifts so much of the weight of the pain, fear, and anguish of those times.”

Jana Rose also explained that, unless you have had a sick child or have been through this experience, there is no way for someone to understand that the little things, like a comfortable place to stay in, food, and entertainment, really become the big things. As she says, “Staying at the Peoria Ronald McDonald House is an escape. It is a miraculous place. Thank you to everyone – the staff, volunteers, and donors – for making the House what it is.”

The Obosu Family – “People came together to meet the needs of a family they didn’t even know”

Hezekiah Obosu was born at 23 weeks and 5 days, weighing 1 pound, 2 ounces, and measuring 12 inches long. His parents, Richard and Cheri, describe their experience of having Hezekiah in the NICU as "the hardest thing we have ever been through." They spent their days wondering if their little boy would make it, and the worst part was having to leave his bedside each night, and not being able to pick him up and squeeze him tight because he was connected to so many cords.

Richard and Cheri live an hour away from Springfield. They found comfort, though, at the Springfield Ronald McDonald House, which was right across the street from the NICU. Cheri says that staying at the House was like, "being surrounded by hundreds of people we had never met, making sure our focus could be on our son. The Ronald McDonald House gave us a place where we could sleep, shower, eat meals, and do our laundry. Strangers brought home cooked meals so we weren’t reliant on fast food."

"Our NICU stay lasted just a few days shy of 8 months, and I can't imagine reliving that experience. I’m not sure how we would have functioned if it weren’t for the large group of strangers who came together to meet the needs of a family they didn’t even know."

The Hiller Family – “The Staff Became like Family”

Michael and Kayla Hiller had an appointment when Kayla was 29 weeks pregnant. At this appointment, their doctor discovered that their son was not getting enough blood flow to the placenta, so Kayla was rushed to the hospital. There, she was diagnosed with preeclampsia, and was told she would need to stay in the hospital for blood pressure monitoring for several weeks until her son was born.

On August 13, 2020, Aries Dale Hiller was born, 10 weeks early. He weighed 2 pounds, 10 ounces. Kayla was able to see Aries for only a few minutes before he was taken to the NICU, while Kayla was taken back to her room to monitor her rising blood pressure. Kayla was unable to visit Aries for 5 days due to her condition. Finally, though, her doctor allowed her to visit Aries, and her blood pressure decreased.

Kayla and Michael were living an hour and a half from Springfield. For a week, Kayla’s parents drove her to Springfield each day. Finally, a spot in the Springfield Ronald McDonald House became available, allowing Kayla and Michael to move in on August 27th.

“Right away, the staff became like family. They asked us each day how we were and how our sweet baby was doing. Some days were harder than others, but Katie (Springfield Program Director) and other staff members were so kind to us and were there if we needed to vent or cry.”

Of her relationship with the other parents staying at the House, Kayla says, “Being a new mom is scary but wonderful at the same time. The other moms and I bonded over our shared experiences, and it was nice to have them at the House to bond with, talk to, and cheer each other up.”

Another highlight of staying at the Ronald McDonald House was the provided meals. Kayla explained, “No one knows how difficult it can be to remember to eat or make time to get food when you are going back and forth to the hospital every day. Having prepared food waiting for us at the House was a blessing. We could focus solely on seeing our child.

Kayla and Michael stayed at the Springfield Ronald McDonald House for about two months. Aries is a happy, healthy, and growing boy!

Bently, Ashley, and John – Getting a helping hand at the Peoria Ronald McDonald House

By Luke Burdsall

PEORIA (WEEK) -- Since the opening of the Peoria Ronald McDonald House two months ago, families have already begun taking advantage of the opportunity it provides to families.

John Haneghan is a grandfather from Macomb whose pride is measured by how many pictures of his grandchildren he can store on his phone.

"I got one of him smiling... I just can't help myself. I took a dozen today. He's just so cute," John said.

Watch a video of this family's story at WEEK.com.

In December, he helped welcome three new grandchildren in the course of just one month, but one stood as a testament to life.

"He was diagnosed with VSD, large VSD, and Truncus arteriosus, and had a hole in his heart," said John.

That's when they discovered the helping hand of the Ronald McDonald House, which opened the same month Bently's journey of life began -- eliminating the cost entirely.

Baby Bently, post surgery. Photo via WEEK.com.

Ashley Hammit, the boys mother, said when she was 20 weeks pregnant with Bently, doctors found issues with his heart during a routine checkup.

This diagnosis forced her son to be hospital bound at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria -- roughly 70 miles from home.

Ashley says the thought was frightening. She wanted him to have a fighting chance.

Now, just weeks old, Bently has already been through four surgeries -- the fight of his life.

"He's been such a fighter... such a fighter," John said.

Since birth, Bently has not left OSF St. Francis, where John and his daughter began staying in hotels just to be close.

John said each day brings different challenges, but Bently finds a way to reassure him that everything is OK.

"I don't know, maybe it's my voice, but he hears me, and he'll look for me, which makes it personal," said John. "... When he grabs my finger, it's like I'm being blessed... being touched by a little angel."

Ashley says, "Nobody likes to be alone, and I like that my dad comes up here and supports me, because there is bad days and there is good days and we can share that time together."

Staying in hotels brought a level of convenience for them instead of commuting the hour and a half each day, but the cost started to add up.

That's when they discovered the helping hand of the Ronald McDonald House, which opened the same month Bently's journey of life began -- eliminating the cost entirely.

"This journey so far with the Ronald McDonald House has been... it turned it all around. It's turned it all around... it's a blessing," John said.

He says their daily routine is by far less stressful.

"We usually try and get up around 7 or 8 o'clock. We usually try to grab coffee on the go, and try to be up at the hospital at around 9 a.m.. They have rounds that let us know how Bently is doing every morning," said John.

They spend about 8 hours a day with Bently, every day. John says from the hospital to the Ronald McDonald House, the support is constant when they go from one place to another.

"So, there's a support group there. Then we come here and they're just as supportive. Because sometimes you don't let your emotions show there, but you do here. It helps to talk to people, see other people, it's like a big family here," John said.

There at the Ronald McDonald House, they have a homey apartment -- food, laundry, and entertainment provided for them, as well as other residents and staff who they can talk to if needed.

"To have that, you know if my dad has to leave, there is other people to lean on too, you know," said Ashley.

The two are able to find joy in the small victories throughout each day -- seeing Bently, eating the meals provided for them, and even some things as simple as playing games to put them at ease.

"We'll play cards. We do enjoy playing a lot of Uno," John said.

"During the day we're mostly about Bently and stuff so to come back and still have that father-daughter bond and play, it's just really fun to do... Get our minds off of the whole situation with Bently and just relax," Ashley said.

With all that the Ronald McDonald House offers them, what John cherishes the most is having a peaceful place to sit and enjoy a moment looking through the pictures he takes each day.

"I share them with family of course. The ones who can't be here. So, it's always precious. I'll have them forever. It makes you realize how delicate life can be. You pray a lot, you pray a lot and when you are around people who are praying with you, it does give you a lot of hope," John said.

Originally Published February 12, 2020 on Week.com.

Photos via WEEK.com.

Lacey, Doug, & Cora – “The Ronald McDonald House felt like home”

It was the start of the new year and my husband Doug and I were expecting our first child. Now that the holidays were over, we were so excited to start getting ourselves and our house ready for our little girl. We were a little over half-way through the pregnancy and were ready to fill our house with all things baby.

On January 13, 2020 I was admitted to the local hospital for monitoring. They were quick to transfer me to HSHS St. John’s Hospital due to the severity of my preeclampsia. After only a few days at the hospital I had to have an emergency C-section. Our daughter Cora was born at 23 weeks 5 days. She weighed only 1 pound. She was admitted to the NICU right after the delivery without either of us seeing her. There was so much unknown after her birth. We were not sure if she would make it or how badly she would be affected from such a preterm delivery. We were living minute by minute. On top of the fear for our daughter, we were an hour and a half away from our home and family. We did not know how we would be able to stay near our daughter during this time. Prior to discharge, our nurse informed us about the Springfield Ronald McDonald House.

I was so relieved to be able to stay close to my daughter and not have to worry about expenses. I will never forget the first day we came to stay at the house. I was so overwhelmed. It is hard to grasp how much the Ronald McDonald House does for the families who stay there. Having a place to sleep at night is one thing, but having a home away from home is another. That is what the Ronald McDonald house became for Doug and me. All meals were provided, rooms were stocked with essentials, washer dryer and detergent were supplied, and pretty much anything you would need was available, all at no cost. This house really makes sure the families do not have to worry about anything other than being there for their babies in such a scary time.

In addition to everything being provided, they have the best staff. We almost forgot that they were staff because they quickly became family. They were there through it all with us. They helped us through the bad and celebrated the good. There were so many times we would sit with them and talk for hours. We looked forward to our time spent with them and were always eager to share any news. They are the biggest reason this house felt like home. The staff really helped the families staying there come together. Each night we would all sit together and share stories about our babies or life experiences. It was so nice to have the connection we did with all the families. We were all in this together. Having support from the staff and families was the greatest feeling. We have so much love for everyone we met at the Ronald McDonald House. No amount of words will be able to describe how important they were on our journey.

We spent 141 days in the NICU, as well as the house. I cannot begin to imagine how differently our story would have been if we were not able to stay at the Ronald McDonald House. Cora is home and doing great. She is healthy and growing. We are so happy to be home together and have grown so much through this experience. We have become so humble and grateful. We cannot wait to give back to this charity that has changed our lives. We encourage people to donate as they can whether it be in form of supplies, meals, or monetary. If you can donate in any way, please know how important your donation is in helping families in such a challenging time.

The Fecht Family – From House Guests to Regular Donors

In early 2019, Jonathan and Holly Fecht were expecting a new addition to their family. But things didn’t go exactly as planned. Their son Noah was born 9 weeks early, sending him to the NICU at HSHS St. John’s Children's Hospital in Springfield, IL. Living more than 2 hours away with no friends or family members in the Springfield area, Jonathan and Holly were not only concerned about their son but where they would stay over the next five weeks. That is until the nurses at the hospital referred them to the Springfield Ronald McDonald House®.

Holly and Jonathan had heard of Ronald McDonald House Charities®, but like many, they were unfamiliar with how we serve families in need until they stayed with us. Holly described the House as a “lifesaver for stress!”, knowing that they would have a home and meals provided to them—at no cost—while their son was getting stronger in the hospital.

We’re happy to report Noah made a full recovery and is a happy, healthy, and active toddler now. But Holly and Jonathan have not forgotten the generous welcome they received at the Springfield House and have become donors, supporting us financially and with in-kind donations.

“We absolutely recommend Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Illinois,” shares Holly. “Not just as a place to stay, but as a charity to support. The direct benefit to families was evident from the level of detail provided in our stay. Every service offered was catered specifically to meet the needs of our family and allowed us to focus on our child and not on other outside stressors. We believe in giving back and supporting those in need. We know what the Houses can provide to families first hand, so it’s an easy choice to add them to our list of organizations we give to annually.”

Want to become an annual supporter of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Illinois?

We make it easy to set up a reoccurring gift! Click here to donate, enter your donation amount and how often you want to make this donation, and your contribution can be on the way quickly.

In the face of everything going on, we need your support now more than ever.

Nash and his Family

Ten-year-old boys are known for being mischievous and full of life. They may spend their days running outside and then immersing themselves in hours of video games on the couch before eating dinner with their families and going to bed, only to start the process all over again the next morning.

If you were to meet Nash, you would find that he is a mischievous ten-year-old who loves video games and eating dinner with his family. Unfortunately, Nash was diagnosed with neuroblastoma and is receiving treatment at the St. Jude Clinic in Peoria, which is over an hour away from his home. Thankfully, the nurses at St. Jude told Nash’s dad about Peoria Ronald McDonald House®, which is where they lived for 6 weeks while Nash received regular treatments.

Nash won the hearts of our staff and volunteers over, and he quickly became known as the House’s “resident food critic”, always chatting with our Guest Chefs while they prepared meals and sharing both his opinions and his gratitude. You could often find Nash and his dad (and mom and brother!) spending time together in the dining room, eating meals together. Nash’s dad also utilized our family kitchens in the House. He enjoys cooking and appreciated the availability of our family kitchens provide, which provided him a space to cook meals on his own schedule, whenever he wanted.

As mentioned, Nash is an avid video gamer. If he wasn’t chatting with our staff and volunteers, he could be found in our Komatsu Game Room. Quite competitive, Nash was always quick to engage other residents in a friendly competition!

Nash’s dad said, “The Ronald McDonald House has been a bright spot in our difficult journey. The staff and volunteers are positive and always eager to help out. I don’t know the donors, but I surmise they have a vision of outreach and a heart for families with children who have medical needs. Thank you!”

The Shipe Family

Our doors are always open and we love serving families by providing just a little extra support wherever it’s needed! We want to thank the Shipe Family for sharing their amazing experience with us, and we’re so happy to see those big smiles for mom and baby!

“Nobody expects to bring a baby into this world who requires the professional help of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)... BUT I did. The Ronald McDonald House turned out to be the answer to my prayers. They helped me tremendously in more ways than one. They provided me with a very nice room to stay in, toiletries, washer and dryer, nice home-cooked meals every day/evening — all at no cost to me! Very importantly, they provided me with the support and friendship I needed at a very difficult time — especially since my own family (including my 12-year-old daughter) was almost two hours away. My son was born with gastroschisis, meaning he was born with his intestines on the outside of his body, requiring him to undergo several surgeries and a seven month stay in the NICU. I NEVER would have been able to afford any of this as I was forced to be off work for so long. The Ronald McDonald House in Springfield, IL made our journey easier, and I will forever be thankful.”

- Kristi Shipe

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