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.

The Werchans: Happy Mother’s Day from a Thankful Mom

Twenty-nine years ago, when living in Sierra Vista, my toddler daughter Felicia and infant son Andrew were diagnosed at the same time with cystic fibrosis. And Andrew, who was three and half months old, had to be hospitalized in Tucson because of the additional diagnosis of failure to thrive. My husband Henry was deployed in […]

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The Werchans: Happy Mother’s Day from a Thankful Mom

Twenty-nine years ago, when living in Sierra Vista, my toddler daughter Felicia and infant son Andrew were diagnosed at the same time with cystic fibrosis. And Andrew, who was three and half months old, had to be hospitalized in Tucson because of the additional diagnosis of failure to thrive. My husband Henry was deployed in Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Storm, and our closest family was in Dallas. I didn’t know how I was going to manage having Andrew in the hospital an hour-and-a-half away and at the same time care for Felicia.

What seemed insurmountable was doable because of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Arizona. The Ronald McDonald House gave me a place to come to after spending the day or night at the hospital, a place for the kids to play, a place to sleep, a place to sit and read or watch tv, home-cooked meals ─ in other words, a home.

These are the tangible things that the Ronald McDonald House provides. The intangible? They supported us and all the families. They listened and had conversations about the day-to-day normal happenings. They asked about how my kids were doing, how they were coping. It meant so much to me that the staff and volunteers at Ronald McDonald House would be so concerned about the whole family.

Little Natalie Joy.
Photo from Libby Lewis Photography in partnership with Soulumination.

Back then, my husband and I paid $10 a night at Ronald McDonald House. “What a deal!” I thought. Only $10 a night for a place to stay while your child is in the hospital far from home, to have home-cooked meals, a kitchen to cook your own meal because that’s what feels normal, a washer and dryer to do your laundry. Nearly thirty years later, you might expect the price to have gone up accordingly, but today? Today, families don’t pay anything to stay at the Ronald McDonald House thanks to the goodwill of donors. My children, my husband and I are proud to count ourselves among that community of donors.

Now we’ve come full circle, and my daughter is a mom of her own. She and my son-in-law Brian welcomed little Natalie Joy to the family just last year ─ our first grandchild. One of my gifts to her, on her very first Mother’s Day as a mom, will be a donation to the Ronald McDonald House in her name.

I hope you’ll join us in recognizing the mothers in your life by making a special gift to Ronald McDonald House Charities. They’ve even set it up so you can send a lovely e-card to them along with a notification of your gift.

Happy Mother’s Day to you and your loved ones. ─ Bridget Werchan


Honor your mom, grandma, or mother figure in your life with a donation to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Arizona in their name and we’ll send them a personalized e-card from you.

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The Rogers: Looking Back

It was 1992 and fifteen-year-old Brian Rogers had been feeling lousy, but according to him, not bad enough to keep him from playing golf and chasing girls. The summer after his freshman year, he left his home in Casa Grande to help his grandparents in Silver Springs, New Mexico. But he was so tired and […]

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The Rogers: Looking Back

It was 1992 and fifteen-year-old Brian Rogers had been feeling lousy, but according to him, not bad enough to keep him from playing golf and chasing girls. The summer after his freshman year, he left his home in Casa Grande to help his grandparents in Silver Springs, New Mexico. But he was so tired and lethargic, he spent a lot of time sneaking away to take naps.

“I was helping to build a deck and was so tired, I swung a hammer smack into my leg. When I went to lie down (for another nap) I saw this really bad bruise on my leg.” But he didn’t think it was anything unusual.

Brian with Lisa Smith, House Manager

Fortunately, his maternal grandmother did. She and his mother, Herbie, thought he might have Osgood-Schlatter – a disease that affects kids having growth spurts. Since his grandmother was a lab technician, she ran a blood test and was shocked to learn that Brian had cancer. The diagnosis was confirmed by the doctor she worked for, who wanted to fly him to the closest hospital as soon as possible.

Meanwhile Herbie was on her way to New Mexico to pick him up and knew none of this. (Remember life before cell phones?) A police officer pulled her over to break the news that her teenage son was so sick, he needed to be flown to University Medical Center. As upset as she was, she was clear-headed enough to know that Brian needed his mom with him, so she demanded to drive him there herself.

The drive to Tucson was a blur.

“When we got to the hospital, they were all ready for us,” Herbie said. “Brian’s name was on the door and his labs had been sent. I was so grateful and so terrified at the same time.”

“I still remember it vividly,” Brian said. “They didn’t pull any punches. They told us I had a rare, aggressive form of bone marrow cancer, with about a 30 percent survival rate.” It was Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia, a cancer usually seen in elderly patients.

Treatment started immediately – intense chemotherapy for months. Herbie spent that time sleeping on a pull-out chair in Brian’s room, “living out of the trunk of her car.”

When cold, flu and RSV season hit, Brian’s doctors all but insisted they move to the Ronald McDonald House.

“The doors to the Ronald McDonald House opened. Lisa (the House Manager) was there to welcome us and help us feel at home. I was never happier to see a washer and dryer, ironing board and starch.” (Herbie reminds us it was the ‘90s and people ironed and starched their clothes.)

The Rogers Family 2021 – Brian, Denise, Miles & Jameson

“At first, I was just excited to get out of the hospital,” Brian said. After that, “the Ronald McDonald House became our second home.”

Herbie stayed at the Ronald McDonald House off and on for nearly a year while Brian was in treatment. Brian stayed there too when he had a break from chemotherapy but couldn’t yet go home.

“We found love and acceptance there,” Herbie said. “There was always someone to wrap their arms around you. To say, come have a cup of tea. And the people we met there made our lives so much richer.”

After 10 months, Brian and his mom were able to go home. He remained in complete isolation, seeing family and friends through a window or if “they scrubbed like they were going into surgery.”

“It was the most stressful time of my life, but I will always rejoice that we found the Ronald McDonald House,” Herbie said. “All these years later, I’m passionate about the House.”

“I have a lot to be thankful for,” Brian said. “I had great doctors and nurses, emotional support from the Ronald McDonald House. And my savior, my mom. I know I could have lost my life and am grateful for every moment I have with my beautiful wife and my twins.”


The Tucson House is known as “the House that Love Built” thanks to over 40 years of community support. When you make a heartfelt gift to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Arizona, you’re helping the next “Rogers Family” stay together when it means the most.

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The Pattens: Together Through the Highs and Lows

Derrick and Melva were looking forward to welcoming their second child in December. They had no reason to worry given the easy, uneventful pregnancy they had with their now 5-year-old daughter, Zendaya. “The Ronald McDonald House really provided everything we needed to be as comfortable as possible there.” Melva has diabetes which increases the risk […]

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The Pattens: Together Through the Highs and Lows

Derrick and Melva were looking forward to welcoming their second child in December. They had no reason to worry given the easy, uneventful pregnancy they had with their now 5-year-old daughter, Zendaya.

Melva has diabetes which increases the risk of complications during and after pregnancy. The doctor warned her and Derrick that their newborn could face irregular heartbeat and low blood sugar. Even though she was confident managing her diabetes, there were still so many unknowns.

Three weeks before her due date, Melva was rushed into an emergency C-section at Tucson Medical Center, 70 miles from home on the Tohono O’odham Nation Reservation near Sells, AZ. Zendaya stayed at home with Derrick’s mom.

Baby Greyson was born with dangerously low blood sugar. He had trouble breathing and his skin was jaundiced. Before mom and dad could even hold him, the doctors whisked him away for diagnostic tests.

“We didn’t know how serious it was at first,” Melva said. “The first time we saw him it was hard. He had a CPAP machine for his lungs and PICC line in his belly button. We couldn’t hold him for a week.”

Four days later, Melva was discharged without Greyson. The worry grew. Worst of all, the COVID-19 pandemic meant that Greyson could only have one visitor at a time. The idea of waiting in the car or driving back and forth from Sells was overwhelming. Then their social worker told them about the Ronald McDonald House.

“We had heard of the Ronald McDonald House, but we never really heard of what they offered or what the stay was like,” Derrick said. They soon learned that the Ronald McDonald House offered all the amenities of home just minutes from the hospital.

When a child is sick, “all your focus should be on the healing of your child and that’s what the Ronald McDonald House was. We weren’t stressed out about anything else,” he added.


Best of all, Zendaya, could stay with them at the House. She arrived in Tucson later that same night. “She really liked it here. She didn’t want to leave,” said Melva.

But as much as it felt like home, they still were missing their baby boy. There were times when they thought they’d be heading home but then Greyson would need to stay for a few more days. “Is it ever going to end? Am I ever going to get to take him home?” asked Melva through tears.

Greyson was in the hospital until January 7, just one day shy of turning 1 month.
As members of the Tohono O’odham Nation, community is a centerpiece of their lives, and that’s what the House was for them – a community. When Greyson and Zendaya are a little older, the family plans to return to the House to volunteer, hopefully bringing neighbors along for the journey.

“The House became a part of us. It’s something we will always remember and be appreciative of.”


When you donate to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Arizona, your provide a “home-away-from-home” for families like Greyson’s.

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The Zacariases: Celebrating Milestones

We love hearing from families after they’ve checked out of the Ronald McDonald House. Especially when they’re sharing good news like the Zacarias family. Last week, we received an email celebrating Francisco’s second birthday. “Thank you for being here for our family for an entire year,” wrote Francisco’s mom, Bibiana. “Thank you for having open […]

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The Zacariases: Celebrating Milestones

We love hearing from families after they’ve checked out of the Ronald McDonald House. Especially when they’re sharing good news like the Zacarias family. Last week, we received an email celebrating Francisco’s second birthday.

Francisco celebrating his second birthday Sesame Street style“Thank you for being here for our family for an entire year,” wrote Francisco’s mom, Bibiana. “Thank you for having open arms and love for our two boys in the hardest times of Francisco’s treatment. Today he turns two and you have become a part of our family as well as all of Ronald McDonald House staff and donors. Y’all really made it feel like a ‘home-away-from-home.’ We miss you all and hope to see y’all soon once again.”

Last July, Francisco was your normal, happy and healthy 13-month-old. He crawled around the house and played peek-a-boo with his parents. When his mom, Bibiana, found a lump on his leg, she thought it was a cyst or a muscle cramp, and took him to his doctor to be sure.

His doctor ran a couple of tests and a few weeks later, the Zacarias family was caught off-guard with the results – Francisco had cancer. He was diagnosed with embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma (ERMS), a type of cancer that attacks connective tissue and had infected his knee.

When a child is diagnosed with cancer, the whole family feels the emotional and mental pain that comes with it. “My family didn’t plan for this to happen. No family does. The stress, sadness, guilt, hurt,” wrote Bibiana on her Facebook page where she updates friends and family about Francisco’s fight against cancer.

Soon, Bibiana and Francisco made the 40-plus minute journey to Banner Children’s Diamond Children’s Medical Center with dad (Juan) and brother (JJ) in tow. Francisco would need round-the-clock care, so Bibiana quit her job at the Sahuarita McDonald’s to do what she knew was best for Francisco – be by his side for every moment of his treatment.

Juan works evenings at the Sahuarita McDonald’s so he can be with his family during the day. This past summer, McDonald’s started a new fundraising effort. It’s called Round-Up for RMHC®. When Juan’s customers ask to round their bill to the nearest dollar, the money supports families at the Tucson Ronald McDonald House – families just like his own.

The first few months were challenging. Bibiana, Juan and JJ were in and out of the Ronald McDonald House more times than they could count while Francisco underwent chemotherapy and radiation.

The House became their “home-away-from-home” each time Francisco received treatment. It was a welcoming place where the family could celebrate the big milestones: his first steps, each hospital discharge, his last inpatient chemotherapy session. By staying much closer to the hospital, they spent less time in a car and more time playing with each other.

In June, the family celebrated another huge milestone – his second birthday!

For the next several months, he’ll be making frequent trips to Tucson for outpatient chemotherapy. His battle is far from over, but Francisco is a fighter.


While our House is temporarily closed due to the global pandemic, families who need to travel for the care of their child are being put up in local hotels all paid for thanks to your generous support.

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Dental Care on the Go

It’s not exactly a house call – but thanks to the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile, dental care for kids is now much closer to home. The Ronald McDonald Care Mobile is a new program for us, a partnership with Chiricahua Community Health Centers, Inc. (CCHCI). It rolled out this summer, bringing dental care to children […]

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Dental Care on the Go

It’s not exactly a house call – but thanks to the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile, dental care for kids is now much closer to home.

The Ronald McDonald Care Mobile is a new program for us, a partnership with Chiricahua Community Health Centers, Inc. (CCHCI). It rolled out this summer, bringing dental care to children in communities throughout Cochise County. The CCHCI dental staff provides comprehensive dental care – cleanings, sealants, varnishes, X-rays and restorative care including fillings, crowns, bridges and repairing damaged teeth.

“It is amazing,” says Melissa Dee VanDongen. “It is so much easier. They can set up the appointments and I can get all three kids done in the morning, so they don’t miss a whole day of school. I’ve lived in Benson my entire life. We used to go out of town until the Care Mobile came to this area.”

The very first patient to the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile in Bisbee was an 11-year-old girl who had chipped her two front teeth when a handstand went awry. She had been extremely self-conscious about her teeth for more than a year. That first day she got her teeth cleaned and her front teeth fixed. “She saw herself in the mirror afterwards and was beaming. She was so happy, just in time for the new school year,” said Dr. Brianna Hillier, Director of Dental Services.

“This was a true testimony as to why we’re here – and why I am so grateful that Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Arizona is collaborating with us to bring these much-needed services to our rural communities. Our patients often have little to no transportation, and when they do it is often unreliable. This little girl could have gone several more years without getting her teeth fixed because her grandmother could not bring her to the next closest town (more than 45 minutes away), nor could they afford it. Bringing dental care to her has not only improved her self-esteem, but also her overall health,” Hillier said. “I look forward to more and more experiences like this.”

The Ronald McDonald Care Mobile has regularly scheduled visits to the Benson Family Health Center, the Copper Queen Community Hospital and the Bisbee Family Health Center. It also visits elementary schools in Pearce, Elfrida, McNeal and Naco. The goal of the program is to reduce the number of three- to five-year-olds with tooth decay. And to start children on a lifetime of good oral health.

The van was purchased with support from our global headquarters. We support a portion of the clinical operation. Arizona Complete Health and the Legacy Foundation of Southeastern Arizona provided grant support. This year we earned a grant from Arizona Complete Health to help build a parking structure for the new dentist office on wheels.

“I am so honored to provide dental services on this Care Mobile,” said Hillier. It is a beautiful vehicle and is quickly turning into the ‘cool, new’ thing to see driving around Cochise County.”

The Goodmans: One Big Happy Family

Garet and Amanda Goodman always hoped for a big family. They wanted to build a life where they would always be surrounded by lots of children and lots of love. Sure enough, in May of 2020 they were expecting their sixth child, though not without struggle along the way. Due to past complications with rapid […]

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The Goodmans: One Big Happy Family

Garet and Amanda Goodman always hoped for a big family. They wanted to build a life where they would always be surrounded by lots of children and lots of love.

Sure enough, in May of 2020 they were expecting their sixth child, though not without struggle along the way. Due to past complications with rapid deliveries (that can cause complications for her babies), Amanda was set to be induced at a Tucson hospital about 100 miles from their Sierra Vista, AZ home.

With her due date looming, they called the hospital to confirm the details of the delivery. That’s when they learned that induction is considered an elective procedure and that all elective procedures had been canceled due to COVID-19.

Garet and Amanda scrambled to make alternative plans with their local hospital in Sierra Vista.

On May 14, Amanda went into labor. Twenty minutes after arriving at the hospital, baby Bree was born. When the doctor noticed Premature Ventricle Contractions (PVCs) in Bree, traumatic memories of previous birth complications came flooding back to both Garet and Amanda.

Most PVCs in newborns resolve on their own, but they can also lead to life-threatening heart problems. The hospital in Sierra Vista lacked the resources to evaluate the cause of the abnormal heartbeats, so at the request of their doctor, Bree was on a helicopter headed for Tucson Medical Center.

Only the patient can fly in an emergency, so mom and dad followed behind in their truck. They arrived in Tucson late that same night. Due to COVID-19, only one parent was allowed to visit Bree at a time, so Amanda spent that first night in a recliner by her side.

Meanwhile, Garet sat in his idling truck for hours waiting for good news. Every birth feels like the first, and the same doubts crossed his mind.

“You want to be a good dad. You want to be able to provide for your family.”

That’s when he remembered the Ronald McDonald House. The family had stayed at the House twice before, when two of their older daughters, Claire and Jade, were born. He remembered how having a “home-away-from-home” gave him and his wife a space to lean on each other while their daughters recovered. He remembered the playground where their eldest daughter, Paige, would play when she visited with her grandparents.

“Going through hard times together always seems to bring us closer together. Even though its hard and even though things are crazy, if we can try to enjoy every moment we have together, then we’ll look back on it fondly.”

While our House is temporarily closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to our most vulnerable families, we are still committed to providing parents with a place to stay near their sick child. A few calls later and the Goodmans were set up at a hotel close to the hospital for the next two nights, all paid for thanks to generous community donations to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Arizona.

Bree’s PVCs continued to be monitored. The tests ruled out heart defects and cancer. Every day her heart grew stronger and the doctors were confident that she would make a full recovery.

The “new” parents were able to head back to the hotel, and because they were only minutes (instead of hours) away from Bree, Amanda slept through the night for the first time in weeks. During the day, Garet was grateful to have a cool place to stay. In the afternoons, Garet would switch places with his wife, enjoying the quiet time he spent with Bree.

But they missed the Ronald McDonald House volunteers, the Chef for a Day meals, and having a place where the rest of their family could join them.

“I remember everyone we would meet at the House was really friendly and caring. Just to see a smiling face makes a big difference.”

Although it wasn’t the same, Garet says, “It was nice to have something taken off our plate.”

When Bree was discharged, Amanda and Garet drove her to Sierra Vista, where her five siblings and grandparents were ready with open arms to welcome her home – one big happy family.

”The

 


During these unprecedented times, we cherish what truly matters: being together.

Help us cover the hotel stays, takeout meals and travel costs for families like the Goodmans with a donation to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Arizona.

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