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 Dos Santos: Going the Extra Mile

“Staying at the House – I tell this to everyone – it’s a blessing. Nothing compares to the importance of being near to the baby.” Imagine this: it’s midnight. Your pregnant wife wakes up in agony. You head to the hospital in Nogales where she’s diagnosed with preeclampsia. Her doctors want her to see a […]

Read More
Title background image described: RMHC Family

Keeping Families Close®

The Dos Santos: Going the Extra Mile

Imagine this: it’s midnight. Your pregnant wife wakes up in agony. You head to the hospital in Nogales where she’s diagnosed with preeclampsia. Her doctors want her to see a specialist at Tucson Medical Center (TMC) nearly 80 miles away.

Before you can wrap your head around the situation, they put her in an ambulance and she’s on her way. An hour-and-half drive. You’ll meet her up there in a few hours after arranging care for your three-year-old son. But before you can hit the road, you receive the life-changing phone call.

It’s your wife’s doctor. Her condition worsened enroute to Tucson. Her organs are failing. She’s being rushed into an emergency C-section. You won’t make it in time.

This account isn’t a ‘what-if’ scenario. It’s Paulo and Elizabeth Dos Santos’s story.

The first 48 hours were critical for baby Danna, who was born at 27 weeks. “It was really frightening because you come in and you just see three or four monitors and cables plugged in. You don’t even see the baby,” said Paulo. “I was thinking, ‘What now? What will we be facing?’”

Baby Danna sleeps soundly while dressed in a bright patterned swaddle.

Danna was a superstar. Her vitals were great, and she didn’t develop any complications. In the words of her doctor, she was perfect.

For the first two weeks, Paulo drove back and forth from Rio Rico every day so that his son, Phillipp, could have some normalcy.

But the stretch of I-19 between Tucson and Rio Rico is one of the deadliest roads in the United States. It’s dark and tedious – especially at night, which was when Paulo was driving, tired and drained after a day at the hospital.

When a social worker caught wind of the situation, she suggested the family apply to stay at the Ronald McDonald House. Paulo was worried about a lengthy application, thinking it would take months to get accepted. But the process was quick, easy and welcoming. They had a room at the House that same day.

“Staying at the House – I tell this to everyone – it’s a blessing. Nothing compares to the importance of being near to the baby.”

There was something for everyone. A bed for mom, a playroom for Phillipp and a workspace for dad. And the people at the House were so welcoming. Every day, a volunteer or staff member would ask, “How’s Danna? How are you?” When Elizabeth and Paulo answered, people truly listened.

Paulo quickly connected with other families staying at the House, wanting to continue the kindness that others had shown him and his family. He recalls one family that he met – a father and son from Mexico.

“The kid was here since December and he hadn’t seen his mom because his mom is on the Mexico side and she can’t cross. They had to pick up the car seat [from her] and they didn’t want to ride in the vans because it’s full of people. So I said, ‘yeah, I can drive you down.’ The idea was that I’d leave them at the border crossing in Nogales and they’d have to walk over and grab a cab on the other side. But I saw that the kid was so weak. So I phoned the company on the Mexico side and I asked the driver to cross to the States and pick the kid up at the border so that he didn’t have to walk.”

It was a small kindness that meant the world.

The Dos Santos family stayed at the Ronald McDonald House for nearly three months while baby Danna reached all her developmental milestones.

The family is now home in Rio Rico, where they’re oh so happy to have their family together.


When you donate to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Arizona, you help families like the Dos Santoses stay together when it matters most.

Donate

The Cliffords: For the Love of Alice

Clifford family photos courtesy of Ellen Duperret and The Bald Beauties Project Three-and-a-half-year-old Alice is a wild child who loves swimming, scootering and running around. Her dad describes her as bubbly, clever and exceptionally funny. So when she complained about a “tummy booboo” it seemed like she just needed time to rest and recharge. When […]

Read More
Title background image described: RMHC Family

Keeping Families Close®

The Cliffords: For the Love of Alice

Clifford family photos courtesy of Ellen Duperret and The Bald Beauties Project

Three-and-a-half-year-old Alice is a wild child who loves swimming, scootering and running around. Her dad describes her as bubbly, clever and exceptionally funny. So when she complained about a “tummy booboo” it seemed like she just needed time to rest and recharge.

When nothing helped her feel better, mom Shelby took her to the emergency room in Sierra Vista, where a nurse practitioner took a blood sample. She ran it three times to ensure the numbers she was seeing were correct. Alice had B-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL for short) and needed treatment in Tucson right away.

Shelby called her husband Landon, who was in class for his Captain’s Career Course, to break the news.

“As a Captain in the Army, you’re prepared for anything that might come your way,” said Landon, “but nothing could have prepared me for this.”

Luckily Shelby’s sister knew what to do. She called the Tucson Ronald McDonald House to get her sister, brother-in-law and one-year-old nephew a room close to the hospital. They were checked-in just hours later.

“The House made everything a step above easy,” said Shelby. “I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to describe what a relief that is. Not having to worry about where my family is going to sleep and where we’re going to eat. Or where we’re going to be safe from COVID-19 when nothing feels safe.”

From the start, Shelby knew that Alice would lose her hair, and that it would be difficult for her. The week of the diagnosis, mom got a big haircut to show Alice that bald women can be strong and beautiful. When Alice’s hair started falling out a few weeks later, she asked for a haircut “just like mama’s.”

For the first few months, Alice and her family made the 80-mile trip to Tucson every few weeks for chemotherapy, all while receiving tremendous support from family and friends.

They wanted to find a small way to take the kindness they received and pay it forward. So they started brainstorming.

They remembered the whirlwind that happens when a child needs immediate care. That moment when you grab everything, throw it into a bag and race to the hospital. And the next moment, when you realize what you forgot.


For Landon, that was a pair of slippers. Something easy to slip on. Something that felt clean after days with Alice in the hospital. That’s when it dawned on them: they could give back with slippers.

Armed with a long Amazon wish list and a lot of help from neighbors, friends and family, they collected slippers to donate to the House. The outpouring of love was so great that by the end of the drive, they had collected over 60 pairs.

They hand-delivered the slippers to the House with Alice’s help. She couldn’t wait to show how strong she was by pulling the overflowing red wagon.

“For a little kid going through everything she’s going through – she’s been amazing.”

Alice still has a long road ahead of her filled with visits to the hospital and the House, but she’s doing great! Through it all, she has maintained her strong will and keen sense of humor. Just last week, Landon “invited” her to help with a chore – putting her dirty dishes in the dishwasher. But Alice sassily replied, “I can’t. I have cancer,” before running off to play with her brother.


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

Make a Gift

Sarah Cada: When 15 Hours Turns into 15 Years

In 2007, Sarah was taking a high school government class. One of the requirements was to serve 15 volunteer hours at a local organization. She immediately thought of the Ronald McDonald House. “I was in and out of the hospital a lot when I was young,” she recalls. Sarah was born without a hip socket […]

Read More
Title background image described: RMHC Family

Keeping Families Close®

Sarah Cada: When 15 Hours Turns into 15 Years

In 2007, Sarah was taking a high school government class. One of the requirements was to serve 15 volunteer hours at a local organization. She immediately thought of the Ronald McDonald House.

“I was in and out of the hospital a lot when I was young,” she recalls. Sarah was born without a hip socket and suffered from migraines caused by Chiari malformation. Most of her childhood was spent at the doctors for checkups, MRIs and surgeries to fix her bones and nerves.

“We never got to use a Ronald McDonald House – they didn’t have them on military bases – but I understood how much of a difference they can make for families like mine.”

Back then, we were still located at our old House on Speedway Boulevard. Her shifts largely consisted of housekeeping. She’d arrive at the House and immediately check the rooms to make sure they were clean and ready for guests. Two months later, we opened our current House and Sarah followed.

“I love talking about how much the House has changed. Going from 5 rooms and 2 shared bathrooms to 27 rooms each with a private bathroom. It’s amazing.”

Sarah couldn’t bring herself to leave after finishing the hours required by her class. She continued volunteering throughout college and while student teaching. Today she works as a third-grade teacher at Roadrunner Elementary.

“I’m a big believer in relationships. It’s my first priority with my students because without that then we couldn’t learn from each other. I apply that philosophy to the House, too. We get to invest in each other’s lives and be a community.”

She shines at making connections with the kids who stay at the House, perhaps because she can sympathize with how they’re feeling.

“A lot of it is scary,” said Sarah about childhood illness. “You’re not in control. Even though the decisions being made on your behalf are in your best interest, it’s scary. You need to have a support system to get through that. As a volunteer, I get to build those relationships which is my favorite thing about being here.”

When asked about one of her favorite memories, she brought up Mason, a boy who stayed at the House while undergoing chemotherapy. “He would run through the front doors of the House and yell, ‘Everyone! My best friend Sarah is here!’ How can you not love getting greeted like that?”

Over the years, she’s introduced friends and family to the House, bringing them in to cook a meal or deck the halls at Christmastime. “They look forward to it and I love sharing this with them.”

Sarah’s come a long way since that high school class, but without those 15 hours of service, she wouldn’t have discovered just how much love she has for our Ronald McDonald House. And that’s how 15 hours of community service turned into 15 years of volunteerism.

The Scerinis: Dogecoin for Good

Holden Scerini smiles from his crib in the hospital A little kindness can go a long way. A smile from across the room. A knowing look a mom shares with another mom, both of whom have a child in the hospital. Or a gift, not meant to pay that kindness back, but rather to pay […]

Read More
Title background image described: RMHC Family

Keeping Families Close®

The Scerinis: Dogecoin for Good

Holden Scerini smiles from his crib in the hospital

A little kindness can go a long way. A smile from across the room. A knowing look a mom shares with another mom, both of whom have a child in the hospital. Or a gift, not meant to pay that kindness back, but rather to pay it forward.

For the Scerini family, those “little kindnesses” started with their own littlest, Holden, when he was just a newborn.

Holden was diagnosed with not one, but several critical congenital heart defects. The family had to become familiar with scary terms like atrioventricular septal defect, transposition of the great arteries, ventricular septal defect and pulmonary stenosis. Essentially, his little heart did not grow the way it was supposed to. Without immediate surgery, his condition was life-threatening. And if open-heart surgery on a newborn baby and a six-week stay in the hospital weren’t scary enough, the Scerini family lived three and a half hours away from the hospital. How could any family be prepared for this?

And so began the series of little kindnesses which comforted dad Justin, mom Cheyanna, big brother Jackson, and of course little Holden. It started with a social worker at the hospital who heard their fears and worries and told them about the Ronald McDonald House, meaning the Scerinis had a place to stay, at no cost, for the duration of Holden’s treatment. Over the course of 45 days, a stay at the Ronald McDonald House could save a family $11,250 in lodging, food, and transportation costs.

The Scerini Family, top left to bottom right: mom Cheyanna, dad Justin, big brother Jackson, little Holden

The next kindnesses came from volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House. Groups that came in to do the simplest and most nurturing of things – cook a meal. (We call them our Chefs for a Day.) For Justin, it meant so much more than some food on a plate. He still gets emotional about it, recently remembering how “it touches your heart to see everybody that gets in there and that comes together to help everybody that’s having a bad time.”

Thankfully, baby Holden’s surgery was successful, as was his second surgery two months later. Thinking about the other guests he met at the House, Justin’s empathy for and connection with those families came flooding back.

“There were a couple of kids there, like, waiting for hearts – and it’s like – you never see that type of stuff in the real world. And then you get around it all the time and you realize how many kids it affects, and it’s just – heartbreaking.”

And so Justin and his family wanted to do everything they could to pay it forward. They attended dinners at the House for past guest families to create a community of support. Justin is also part of a growing online community that is far more supportive than one might expect: dogecoin.

Yes, dogecoin (pronounced DOUGH-ZH-coin), the cryptocurrency with the funny looking Shiba Inu dog as its mascot, may have started off as an internet joke, but it has grown into, among other things, a community of people like Justin dedicated to showing the world that this new currency can be used for good.

After Justin saw a light-hearted Twitter exchange between McDonald’s and dogecoin creator Billy Markus, he knew how he could help other families like his. He found that he could make a donation of cryptocurrency right on the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Arizona website. Justin was happy that the gifts would be used locally, and that the process was quick and easy.

He shared his donation with the dogecoin community on social media, and wouldn’t you know it, the community responded with several more donations of their own from all over the country. It was enough to support two families for a night at the Ronald McDonald House. Another little kindness that had far-reaching effects.

And while Holden has continued to flourish since then, he will still require multiple surgeries to completely repair his heart, and the Scerini family expects to stay at the Ronald McDonald House again. But thanks to people like you and small acts of kindness, they know they’ll always have a place to call a “home-away-from-home” whenever Holden needs surgery.


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

Make a Gift Donate Cryptocurrency

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 […]

Read More
Title background image described: RMHC Family

Keeping Families Close®

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.

Send a Mother's Day E-card

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 […]

Read More
Title background image described: RMHC Family

Keeping Families Close®

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.

Make a Gift