Evan Rennicke’s Family

When 10-year-old Evan’s oncologist told his family that he needed proton radiation and chemotherapy to treat medulloblastoma, his family didn’t know how far from home they needed to travel, they just knew they needed to act fast so Evan could begin treatment.

Luckily, Evan could start treatment at Northwestern Medicine Proton Center and Central DuPage Hospital, only 137 miles away from home. But 137 miles turns into 274 miles round-trip, and Evan needed treatment five days a week for the next six weeks.

“When we were learning our treatment plan, a few friends suggested looking into Ronald McDonald House,” Chelsie, Evan’s mom, said. “Just a few days before treatment was set to begin, we received a call that a room was available.”

Having Ronald McDonald House as a place to stay ensured the Rennicke family had access to the hospital and center so Evan could get the care he needed.

“Because there aren’t any proton centers in Wisconsin, we had no choice but to travel for Evan’s radiation and chemotherapy,” Chelsie said. “If we didn’t have Ronald McDonald House, we would have had to drive every single day or pay a minimum of $6,000 for a hotel due to the length of stay we had. Ronald McDonald House provided us with not only a place to stay, but the ability to receive treatment at the Proton Center, despite its distance from our hometown.”

She continued, “It lifted a huge weight off our shoulders. We no longer needed to worry about the added stress of travel and finances. We could focus solely on Evan’s care.”

The Rennicke family – mom, dad, Evan, and his grandparents – were able to be by Evan’s side during all his treatments.

“Evan always had two family members with him, whether it was me and his dad, or a mix of one of us and one of his grandparents,” Chelsie said. “It was nice to alter who was staying to keep things exciting for Evan and make him feel like he was showing off his new place to everyone. It also gave me and his dad sometime ‘off’ and could be at home with Evan’s siblings.”

His parents reflected on the positive impact the Ronald McDonald House staff had on Evan and his family.

“After treatment in the mornings, we would come back to the House and have some quiet time. Evan would head downstairs to see what was going on and convince staff and volunteers to join in on Nerf battles. The staff was amazing – they would stop whatever they were doing to entertain Evan and never once made him feel like a burden or a ‘sick kid.’”

They continued, “On days when there wasn’t a volunteer meal group, the staff would ask Evan what he was in the mood for knowing he needed to keep his calories up and that his tastes were changing. The attention to detail made us feel like we were staying with family.”

Knowing Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana is with them every step of their journey gives the Rennicke family peace of mind.

“Ronald McDonald House provided our family with a home away from home. We had a place where we could be ourselves, a place to cry, and a place we could connect with others. We aren’t the only ones going through a difficult phase of life, and looking down the unknown road of Evan’s journey, we likely aren’t done with our difficult phases. Knowing there are Ronald McDonald Houses wherever we might be getting treatment means so much to us. It brings us a sense of peace.”

Chelsie Rennicke