A Better Birthday with Help From the Ronald McDonald House

August 4, 2010

BIRTHDAY BOY – – Max Herrick of Barrington, Ill., celebrated his 6th birthday on July 24, 2010 and will join his parents Liz and Jared to attend the 12th Annual Macy’s Glamorama charity event on Aug. 13, 2010, benefiting The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana.

A better birthday with help from Ronald McDonald House


     By Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, 219.852.4327 | Posted: Sunday,

     August 1, 2010 12:00 am |

BIRTHDAY BOY – – Max Herrick of Barrington, Ill., celebrated his 6th birthday on July 24, 2010 and will join his parents Liz and Jared to attend the 12th Annual Macy’s Glamorama charity event on Aug. 13, 2010, benefiting The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana. The Herrick family, who have spent much of the past two years living at a Ronald McDonald House, are the 2010 Ambassador Family.


If you go

The 12th Annual Macy’s Passport Glamorama featuring Grammy award-winning singer Macy Gray and benefiting Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana.

WHERE: The Chicago Theatre and Macy’s on State Street in Chicago

WHEN: 8 p.m. Aug. 13.


HOW MUCH: Tickets range from $50 to $1,000

FYI: RonaldHouseChicago.org or by calling (630) 623-2309.


Even though Max Herrick of Barrington, Ill., turned 6 years old on July 24, he’s still waiting for his “big birthday party.”


Max has a much different life than most kids his age. It’s one of the reasons he didn’t have a party right away to celebrate turning another year older.


Since birth, Max has been in and out of the hospital because he was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a condition in which the heart’s left side is underdeveloped. He spent the first seven months of his life at Children’s Memorial Hospital and underwent a series of surgical procedures to treat the condition.


During this time, the Herrick family was able to remain close to Max by staying at the area Ronald McDonald House, which provides a “home away from home” for the families of hospitalized children.


“For Max, the Ronald McDonald House has seemed like his real home for so much of the time,” said his mother, Liz. “And that’s been the same for all our our family.”


Max eventually went into the early stages of heart failure, so his doctors determined that a heart transplant was necessary. His parents, Jared and Liz, were told it could take anywhere between a month and two years for a donor heart to become available.


Fortunately, just two months later, a donor heart was available for their then 2-year-old son.


Max and his amazing story, along with the wonderful support and strength shown by his parents and all of his other older siblings, who range from ages 8 to 18, are the reasons the Herrick family was selected by Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana to serve as the Ambassador Family for Macy’s Passport Presents Glamorama in Chicago this month.


And it’s also why Max is looking forward to a much bigger birthday party, on stage at The Chicago Theatre on Aug. 13 with 4,000 guests all celebrating his life and determination.


“Max is very outgoing and as long as he keeps feeling good, his doctors have said he can be right there in the spotlight,” Liz said.

“He’s a kid that loves to show off his dance moves, with a passion for science and sports and he can quote lines from his favorite movie ‘Star Wars Episode 3.'”


Each year, Macy’s Glamorama event invites guests to “be inspired to dream big and explore fashion through music, special effects and innovative technology for fashion, fantasy and magic in a runway production transporting partygoers from their seats into a whimsical wonderland filled with desire and delight.”


And helping sing “Happy Birthday” on stage will be Grammy award-winning singer Macy Gray, the entertainment headliner who’s helping kick off the 12th annual Glamorama.


Max, who’s been resting up to feel strong enough to attend all of the fun, will have to wear a surgical mask to help protect him from germs, while also sporting his favorite fedora hat.


Besides his heart ailments, Max also faced additional health challenges.

“Even after the heart transplant, Max didn’t seem to be growing like he should and he was getting sick frequently,” Liz said. “He also didn’t have much appetite.”


Following the surgery, to help Max’s body accept his heart, he was placed on anti-rejection medication, which also suppressed his immune system. In September 2008, diagnostic tests confirmed Max had developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of cancer resulting from his lowered immune system, with tumors being found in his lungs, stomach, intestines, esophagus and rectum.


A portion of the tumor in his lungs was surgically removed and Max began a course of chemotherapy to shrink the remaining tumors.


After several months the tumors shrank enough that Max was able to end his chemotherapy treatments. Max is currently receiving various therapies to help fight the tumors and combat other related issues. Although Max is still undergoing surgeries and treatments, he and his family continue to keep a positive attitude and a smile on their faces.


During all of the treatments and hospital visits, it meant more time for the family staying at the Ronald McDonald House.


“If we didn’t have this one constant in our lives, knowing we had a place to stay that really felt like a home, all of this would have been so much tougher on all of us,” Liz said.


Anne Czarnecki, of Oak Lawn is the director of the Ronald McDonald House at 622 West Deming Place, in Chicago, where the family stayed. She said Max helps inspire others of all ages.


“It’s so important that family know about these stories,” Czarnecki said. “The Ronald McDonald Houses have been around since 1977 and as more people realize they are available, the more space we need.”


The house Czarnecki is director of is a converted 130-year-old Victorian mansion, that can welcome 21 families a night.


“There are just a couple rules,” she said. “As long as we have room, families can stay as long as they need and all we ask is for a $10-a-night donation. When all of the expenses are broken down, it really costs about $50 a night, which is why we depend on donations and generous charity events like Macy’s Glamorama.”


Another important stipulation is that in order for a family to stay, they have to live at least 10 miles or farther away from the hospital or treatment center.


“We welcome so many families from Northwest Indiana. By not having to do all of that driving, they can spend more time with their family member who is sick,” Czarnecki said.


Last week, she said her house was so booked, there were 12 families on a waiting list, which is one of the reasons a newer and larger downtown Chicago Ronald McDonald House is now in the works.


“We are in the middle of a $30 million campaign to raise the money needed to finish our new 14-story  Ronald McDonald House right downtown at 211 E. Grand, which will be able to help 86 families a night,” Czarnecki said.


“This is another reason we are so grateful to Max and his family and Macy’s for getting the word out about this important project,” she said.


“Getting it finished would be a birthday gift to many families from all over Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana, and even farther.”



NWtimes.com, A better birthday with help from the Ronald McDonald House, 08.01.10.