Nothing tells the story of the Ronald McDonald House like the experiences of our families. Each is uniquely compelling, but all are united by a common thread of courage, hope and love. Read some of the stories that inspire us every day.

Sydni & Geri

Lessons from a Teenager

Sydni Lee is 16-years-old. In February, she was a varsity cheerleader at Payson High School, a member of high school drama club, a scholar, a fun-loving teenager. In March she was diagnosed with Familial Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (Familial HLH), a rare disorder of the immune system, affecting one in 1.2 million people. The treatment for Familial […]

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Lessons from a Teenager

Sydni Lee is 16-years-old. In February, she was a varsity cheerleader at Payson High School, a member of high school drama club, a scholar, a fun-loving teenager. In March she was diagnosed with Familial Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (Familial HLH), a rare disorder of the immune system, affecting one in 1.2 million people. The treatment for Familial HLH is like leukemia – chemotherapy to knock out the damaged immune system, then a bone marrow transplant to replace it.

But that’s a simple version of a complex story. Sydni endured thirteen weeks of chemo, spinal taps, CT scans and blood transfusions. There was difficulty finding a perfect donor match, and difficulty with the bone marrow transplant. After the transplant in July, she was in isolation for 43 days and suffered a host of painful complications. Migraines. Mouth sores. Fevers. Inability to eat, drink or talk. In all, a six-month stay at the Ronald McDonald House, along with her mom, Geri,

BraceletBut Sydni is not her disease. She is a young woman whose spirit is soaring, in spite of this wretched disease. Seriously, she wears a bracelet, “Find Joy in the Journey.”

When finding a bone marrow donor became difficult, she created her own video, which inspired 500 more people to sign up for the bone marrow registry.

After the transplant, when eating was difficult, her mom, Geri, said, “Faith and humor were her main staples.”

In the hospital one day, she took out her ukulele and joined a duo of folk singers, entertaining the staff and teaching songs to toddlers with cancer. An impromptu, joyful concert while Sydni and the young patients were hooked up to IV poles and wearing surgical masks. The song?

One Day by Matisyahu

Sometimes in my tears I drown
But I never let it get me down
So when negativity surrounds
I know some day it´ll all turn around

“Sydni never complains,” Geri says. “I’ve been traumatized by what I’ve seen my child go through, but I have never heard her complain.”

Since they’ve spent so much time at the Ronald McDonald House, we’ve all grown to love Sydni and Geri. And enjoyed some Friday afternoon concerts.

“Staying at the Ronald McDonald House allowed us to use our funds to save our home”, Geri said. “I would have lost everything. I can’t imagine where we would be financially, mentally, emotionally without being able to stay at the Ronald McDonald House. To me, it’s not [just] the Ronald McDonald House, it’s a home.”

While there’s no story or no family that’s just like Sydni’s, there are hundreds of families that need the Ronald McDonald House each year. More than 650 families called this House their home last year. You help create this wonderful “home-away-from-home.” All families stay here for free because of your past support.

Remember when you give to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Arizona, every dollar stays here in Tucson to help families through one of the most stressful times of their life.

Sydni and her mom are in Payson now, more than they are Tucson. But they still stay with us for a few days at a time when they are here for follow-up care.

“Now we’re both in good spirits, but I’m definitely ready for the next chapter,” Geri said.

Dianne with Play Button

I’ll Never Forget Everything You Did For Us

If you’ve ever wondered about the families you help when you volunteer or donate, take a minute to hear directly from the Westfalls, who want to thank you for becoming part of their family. To help children like Maddie, visit the How to Help page where you can learn about Chef for a Day, the […]

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I’ll Never Forget Everything You Did For Us

If you’ve ever wondered about the families you help when you volunteer or donate, take a minute to hear directly from the Westfalls, who want to thank you for becoming part of their family.

To help children like Maddie, visit the How to Help page where you can learn about Chef for a Day, the Red Shoe Society, Community Fundriasers, Legacy Gifts, and more.

Sara & Logan

Gratitude Mode

A message from our Kate: People often ask me if it’s sad to work at the Ronald McDonald House. But honestly, even though the House is filled with families who have sick (sometimes very sick) children, there is happiness here. Not the jump for joy kind. The kind of happiness you get when you feel […]

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Gratitude Mode

A message from our Kate:

People often ask me if it’s sad to work at the Ronald McDonald House. But honestly, even though the House is filled with families who have sick (sometimes very sick) children, there is happiness here. Not the jump for joy kind. The kind of happiness you get when you feel at home. When you feel cared for. When you know you are not alone. Our families remind us daily that a house is more than just a place. It’s a feeling.

When Sara Reeder put her newborn son, Logan, in a car seat to head back home to Yuma last week, she was in, as she puts it, “full-on gratitude mode.”

More than two years ago, doctors had told Sara that it was unlikely she could ever be a mom.  So when she got pregnant, there were concerns. A previous surgery for uterine fibroids made her pregnancy very high risk, and she wanted to do everything she could to have a healthy baby.

Because spontaneous labor could endanger both her life and the baby’s, doctors in Yuma wanted to deliver the baby when she was 34 weeks pregnant and baby Logan was only 3.5 pounds.

But Sara knew Logan was too little to be born that early, so she insisted there had to be another way. The only option, her doctor advised, was to spend a month in Tucson, near a hospital with a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). How could she afford to spend a month away from home?

Before she even started worrying about paying for a hotel, a social worker at Banner University Medical Center told her about the Ronald McDonald House.  Your gift to RMHC will help provide this warm, caring, safe place to stay, close to a great hospital in Tucson, all at no cost to families like hers.

Although our primary mission is providing care for families of sick children, we are also able to provide short-term housing for women with high-risk pregnancies.

Sara was a guest at the Ronald McDonald House for 30 days. She was sometimes accompanied by her cousin, her aunt, her friend, or her boyfriend, Marc. Sara says she felt welcomed the minute she checked in.

“There were baby quilts and toys on the bed – like they were expecting me!  And everyone was so kind and accommodating. I never felt like I was in a hotel.  This place is so heartwarming. Having people cook for you makes you feel like you are part of the family.”

And about the gratitude?  On October 30, Sara gave birth to baby Logan, who was 5 ½ pounds and “perfect,” said his parents.  Since she was able to stay at the Ronald McDonald House for four weeks, her son got to spend that time developing in the womb, rather than in an incubator in the NICU.

You can make this possible for future families who stay at the Ronald McDonald House. Your gift will help more than 600 families like Sara’s each year.  You can help create this wonderful “home-away-from-home.” It is only because of our community’s support that all the families who stay here stay at no charge.

I know from talking to Sara and other families how much the Ronald McDonald House means to them.  But the thanks go deeper than words – as does our gratitude for your support of our mission.

Remember, when you give to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Arizona, every dollar stays here in Tucson to help families through one of the most stressful times in their lives.

From all the children and families we serve, thank you.

Sincerely,

Kate Maguire Jensen

President & CEO

P.S.       More families like Sara’s are arriving at our House every day. YOU can help them too.  Your gift will let them focus on what matters most – their child’s health.

A note from DIanne

Giving Thanks

A message from Dianne and Matthew, an active duty family with the US Army. At the time of their daughter’s birth, they were stationed at Fort Huachuca, 75 miles from Diamond Children’s Medical Center. During our daughter’s 4-month stay at the NICU at Banner Children’s Diamond Children’s Medical Center there were many times when we […]

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Giving Thanks

A message from Dianne and Matthew, an active duty family with the US Army. At the time of their daughter’s birth, they were stationed at Fort Huachuca, 75 miles from Diamond Children’s Medical Center.

During our daughter’s 4-month stay at the NICU at Banner Children’s Diamond Children’s Medical Center there were many times when we didn’t want to leave our daughter’s bedside. We often spent 10- to 12-hour days at the hospital.
We were able to maintain our sanity by making quick runs to the Ronald McDonald Family Room for a snack and a cup of coffee. The Family Room allowed us to recharge our batteries when we were drained and get a brief break from whatever stress we were facing.
We want to thank Ronald McDonald House Charities and the Family Room volunteers for making that valuable resource available to us during our daughter’s time in the hospital.
Sincerely,
Dianne and Matthew Westfall, parents of Madison “Maddie” Westfall
183 nights at the Ronald McDonald House

Charlotte & Ronald

175 Nights & Counting

It all started with a pair of roller skates. Charlotte Randall, then 18, fell while roller skating and hurt her tailbone. When it wouldn’t stop hurting, she visited a physician assistant in Bullhead City, AZ. The PA said her tailbone would heal in time, but, “Oh – you have two heart murmurs.” The PA was […]

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175 Nights & Counting

It all started with a pair of roller skates.

Charlotte Randall, then 18, fell while roller skating and hurt her tailbone. When it wouldn’t stop hurting, she visited a physician assistant in Bullhead City, AZ. The PA said her tailbone would heal in time, but, “Oh – you have two heart murmurs.” The PA was concerned, especially when she realized that Charlotte’s resting heart rate was nearly 60% higher than normal.

A few doctors later, she was diagnosed with ‘inappropriate sinus tachycardia,’ (aka an abnormally fast heartbeat.) Medications weren’t working so eventually her family made the six-hour drive to Tucson to see Dr. Peter Ott, Cardiac Electrophysiologist at Banner University Medical Center. Dt. Ott performed a few procedures to try to regulate her heartbeat. Then he installed a pacemaker.

That’s when Charlotte and her family found the Ronald McDonald House.

“This is an amazing place to stay,” Charlotte said. “I rave about it to all the nurses at the hospital.”

Until August, things were going well. Then Charlotte developed sepsis, which caused endocarditis (an infection of the inner lining of the heart chambers and valves.) Three weeks in the hospital has turned into a lengthy stay in Tucson. Charlotte and her mom, Merlynn, have been guests of the Ronald McDonald House for 175 nights.

“It’s our sanctuary,” Merlynn said. “We get to just chill and relax here and meet other parents – some who have things worse than we do. And it would have been very expensive to try to stay in a hotel for all these months.”

Now this 22-year-old is in cardiac rehab – the youngest patient in the program by several decades. She is one-third of the way through her 36 sessions and hopes that then she can return home and think about starting community college. Not surprisingly, she wants to study science.

Payne Family

I’ve Found the Way

What brought Sergeant Chris Payne to the Ronald McDonald House to volunteer?  A baby girl with a hole in her heart. Five years ago, little Emma was born to Chris and his wife Tara in a rural clinic 90 miles outside Kansas City.  The baby came quickly – just after the doctor arrived.  And just […]

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I’ve Found the Way

What brought Sergeant Chris Payne to the Ronald McDonald House to volunteer?  A baby girl with a hole in her heart.

Five years ago, little Emma was born to Chris and his wife Tara in a rural clinic 90 miles outside Kansas City.  The baby came quickly – just after the doctor arrived.  And just as quickly they realized that Emma needed specialized care. Within a couple of hours, she was rushed to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City.

Emma has Down syndrome and was born with an Atrioventricular Canal – a congenital heart defect.  She spent 10 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) while her parents stayed nearby in the Ronald McDonald House. Six months later, they stayed at the House for six days when Emma had heart surgery.

“She did fantastic and recovered phenomenally,” Chris said. “But I missed a lot of work that year and it cost us a lot of money.  Staying at the Ronald McDonald House made us feel like we were at home.  Not having to worry about things like meals or washing our clothes gave us time to think about our baby.”

The Payne family moved to Tucson five years ago when Chris was transferred to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.  He oversees the weapons load-crew training and is a cabinet member of the Davis-Monthan Weapons Booster Club. Chris and his crew were at the Ronald McDonald House cooking lunch a few weeks ago.

“I have always been wanting to give back to the Ronald McDonald House and now I’ve found the way.”


Thanks to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Kansas City for taking such good care of our new friends.

To join volunteers like Chris and the DM-WBC, visit the Chef for a Day page and schedule your meal.