When a child is sick, a family is sick.
We exist so families can get better together.
Learn how Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana helps families heal together by reading family stories of struggle, love and hope.
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“We had no idea how helpful Ronald McDonald House was until we had a medically fragile child. We have a great family, we have great friends, we have a great support system, but if we didn’t have the Ronald McDonald House, things would be so much more challenging.” – Matt and Lauren Backe
A few weeks before Everly Backe entered the world, her parents learned she would be born with a congenital heart defect. Within three days of her birth, Everly had open-heart surgery, the first of three she’d undergo before her first birthday.
Through multiple surgeries, Everly’s parents, Lauren and Matt, and older brother, Jack, relied on Ronald McDonald House to keep them close. “When Everly is in the hospital and looking for me, I don’t want to be two hours away. I want to be two minutes away,” shared Lauren.
The House provided the Backe family with more than a place to sleep during their stays so they could focus on their little girl. “I rarely left the hospital to eat, so when a day didn’t go as planned and I missed lunch and dinner, the fact that volunteers had a meal in the fridge with my name on it when I got back to the House at 3 a.m. meant I actually ate that day,” said Lauren.
“The hospital takes care of our daughter Opal, and the Ronald McDonald House takes care of us. It’s really is a successful combination because when you can be there for the healing process for your kids, fully rested, fully fed and nourished, it makes a huge difference.” – Priscilla and Tyler Lang
At only 15 months old, Opal was diagnosed with bradycardia, or a slow heartbeat. Shortly after receiving a pacemaker to help regulate her heartbeat, Opal lost consciousness and was airlifted to Lurie Children’s where doctor’s determined she would need a heart transplant.
For more than five months, parents Priscilla and Tyler were able to stay as close to Opal as possible thanks to the Ronald McDonald House near Lurie Children’s and the Family Room in the hospital. Priscilla recalls asking the nursing staff caring for Opal, “I don’t care if you’re going to put a bandaid on her, I want you to call me. If it’s two o’clock in the morning, I want to know.” Within minutes, Priscilla and Tyler were by their daughter’s side.
The end of April 2019 was busy and joyous for the Lang family. On April 24, Opal received her new heart and just three days later, the family welcomed their newest addition, baby Apollo.
“I want other families to know there’s hope and to lean into the Ronald McDonald House and the support that it gives,” Priscilla added.
“Ronald McDonald House makes us feel at home; if there’s anything we need, they will provide it. Being together means a lot and the support of her sisters has helped Crystal progress faster. The staff and volunteers also help me take care of my family which helps me feel more relaxed.” – Rosalba Garduno
At just four years old, Crystal Garduno radiates joy wherever she goes. She greets new friends with the biggest hug imaginable and can light up a room with her smile. Although faced with severe medical challenges, Crystal is a happy girl whose family has been by her side from the beginning. Crystal was born with a genetic syndrome called MIH3 that resulted in the need for multiple surgeries for drop foot, hearing loss and vision impairment. In addition, Crystal suffers from scoliosis where the vertebrae in her spine have fused together. Despite these challenges, and warnings from doctors that she may never walk, Crystal has persevered and proves everyone wrong with every step that she takes. Throughout each surgery, Crystal’s family stayed at Ronald McDonald House so that they could be by her side.
“Every time the phone rang, and we knew it was from the hospital, we became very frustrated because we couldn’t get there quick enough due to the distance and traffic,” says Crystal’s mom, Rosalba, whose family resides in Joliet, IL, more than an hour away from the hospital Crystal relies on for critical care. “Ronald McDonald House gave us the chance to be together. I was more energized when we were together and our doctors said she likely healed faster because we were with her.”
Crystal continues to heal and improve, but still has appointments with her doctors that last up to four days at a time. Each time, she and her family stay together at Ronald McDonald House.
To give back some of the love and support Crystal’s family has received, they participate as a family in the Meals from the Heart program and prepare highly anticipated Mexican-inspired menus that are a highlight for families staying at the House. “We don’t have the means to donate money, but enjoy providing a meal for families, which is our way to give thanks for all that we have been given.”