Mary Alice Kunz’s Family

Mary Alice doesn’t remember the first time her family stayed at the Ronald McDonald House 11 years ago, but her parents do. But after her most recent visit for heart surgery, Mary Alice knows – and loves – the House that made it possible for her parents to stay by her side.

At only four months old, Mary Alice was taken by emergency helicopter to Loyola Hospital for what doctors discovered was a congenital heart defect. Within a few days, she was transferred to Advocate Children’s Hospital for her first of four heart surgeries before her first birthday. Her parents, Kate and Ben, were able to stay moments away the entire time – a total of 67 days – thanks to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana.

“We lived 90 minutes from the hospitals, but we knew we wouldn’t leave Mary Alice alone,” her parents recalled. “We remember thinking ‘How do people do this without Ronald McDonald House – without a place to rest or have a normal meal?’”

Now 11 years old, Mary Alice needed a new heart valve as she was out-growing her old one. This time, she could understand – and see for herself – what the Ronald McDonald House meant to her family.

“When we were in Mary Alice’s room at the hospital, we could point out the window and show her where we were staying across the street so she would know we were close by,” her father shared. “And when she finally got to visit the House with us, she loved everything, especially the treehouse and the big staircase.”

The House provided her parents with the same comforts of their first visit. “I remember walking back to the House and just breathing and feeling grateful that there was no beeping, no one walking into our room or needing anything, no hospital noises – just quiet,” her mom remembered.

Now that the family is home again, they look forward to helping other families like theirs in the future by hosting a wish list drive with Mary Alice’s school or volunteering to cook a meal for families. “We had a need in 2009 and 2020 to stay near our daughter,” Ben and Kate said, “and we are so grateful Ronald McDonald House is there every day for families like ours.”