Aliyah Garcia’s Family

Aliyah was only a few weeks from her fifth birthday when doctors diagnosed her with leukemia that would eventually lead to four rounds of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. But even after everything Aliyah experienced, her stay at Ronald McDonald House with her family inspired her to help other families going through the same thing.

“Aliyah has always been a kind-hearted kid, but everything she’s been through has made her mature faster,” shared Aliyah’s mother, Alejandra. “Aliyah is so motivated to help others.”

At four years old, Aliyah was being treated for a severe bone infection at Lurie Children’s Hospital when additional tests revealed that she had leukemia. After several rounds of in-patient chemotherapy didn’t make the impact her doctors hoped for, her doctors suggested a bone marrow transplant followed by more chemotherapy.

For several weeks after her bone marrow transplant, and for five days every month for the next six months during her next round of chemotherapy, the family stayed at Ronald McDonald House near Lurie Children’s, an experience Aliyah looked forward to. As soon as her parents reminded her that her next round of chemotherapy was coming up, Aliyah would start packing, excited to stay at her “home away from home.”

“Ronald McDonald House made my life a lot easier. The minute we walked in, we were greeted and made to feel welcome and cared for. And it wasn’t just Aliyah being taken care of, but us too. It reduced my stress so much to know we could take the shuttle to and from the hospital, especially during winter or when we were tired. I didn’t have to carry all of Aliyah’s supplies or worry about driving and making it to an appointment on time.”

Alejandra Garcia

During one of their stays, Alejandra recalled Aliyah asking, “How do they always have shampoo for us, and meals?” When Alejandra explained it was because kind people donated money, Aliyah made her mind up that she wanted to help families, too. “If we wouldn’t have had Ronald McDonald House, we would have had to drive every day – and that would have been a pain,” Aliyah said. “We need to help other families so they don’t have to drive every day, too.”

Last summer, Aliyah and her mom put their inspiration into action and, with the help of Aliyah’s kindergarten teacher, decided to host a lemonade stand fundraiser. Aliyah knew right away that she wanted the money to help other families enjoy the same things her family did during their stay at Ronald McDonald House. And once Aliyah started school this past fall, she and her teacher even created a walkathon to help raise awareness and funds so more families like hers could get better together.

Today, Aliyah is a healthy, energetic, sassy six year old who is always happy to share her story and how much she loves Ronald McDonald House – and making sure everyone knows that they can help other kids and families, too. “They helped me and my family so much,” Aliyah shared. “Every time we stayed, I would get a toy, we would get food, they had shampoo if we forgot it. I want to donate because they took good care of me.”