Your support of San Diego’s Ronald McDonald House makes a difference to more than 15,000 family members who access our facilities each year in search of a hot meal, a place to sleep, and more. Learn about some of our families here.
The Lakes never imagined they’d be calling the Ronald McDonald House home. While driving back from a day at Disneyland, the Lake family was involved in a serious car accident less than one block from their San Diego home. Seven-year-old Lennox was rushed to the hospital with a severe head injury.
The young boy required multiple surgeries and around-the-clock care. As his parents, Benjamin and Ingrid, tried to manage this crisis, there was only one certainty in their lives – they needed to be as close as possible to their beloved son. That’s where the Ronald McDonald House stepped in.
“With traffic, it would take us an hour to get home. It would have been impossible for us to always be at his side,” explains Benjamin. “It was so comforting to know that we never needed to be more than steps away from Lennox, thanks to the Ronald McDonald House.”
While Lennox was hospitalized, the Ronald McDonald House took care of the Lakes so they could focus all their love and attention on their child. For two weeks, the Ronald McDonald House provided the Lakes with a place to sleep, hot meals to eat, and a welcoming environment for all families with a child in medical crisis.
Now eight months removed from the accident, Lennox has made incredible strides in his recovery. He is back to doing many of his favorite things – video games, playing with his dog, and exploring the outdoors with Mom, Dad, and his two older brothers.
Being thousands of miles away from home can be scary for a young child. What’s even scarier is traveling that distance to undergo life-saving open heart surgery. That’s what three-year-old Elijah Francisco did this past August, when he traveled to San Diego from Oahu, Hawaii with his parents, Misty and Reuben.
Thank goodness, Elijah’s surgery was successful, but he still needed monitoring for several weeks after being released from the hospital. They couldn’t go back home yet. For the Francisco family, the Ronald McDonald House became their “home-away-from-home” during this crucial time of recovery.
“I don’t know what we would have done, or where we would have stayed if it weren’t for the Ronald McDonald House. We were so grateful to have a roof over our heads, three meals a day, and a chance to relax and watch Elijah play,” says Misty.
Elijah quickly gained his energy back and spent nearly every waking minute on the Ronald McDonald House’s playground. He even learned to ride a tricycle on our trike track. Misty notes that “While on the playground, Elijah would forget why we came to San Diego. It was because of the Ronald McDonald House that he has happy memories, rather than thoughts of lying on a hospital bed.”
Now a few months after surgery, Elijah is a happy, healthy and energetic little boy who’s riding his own tricycle back in Oahu. With an ever-stronger heart, he’s building more skills and happy memories since his family’s time at San Diego’s Ronald McDonald House.
Katrina and Aaron Kelsey are the busy and proud parents of seven-year-old triplets, Catherine, Kevin, and Cord. These siblings share a special bond. When Cord was hospitalized for respiratory issues earlier this year, they needed to be together as much as possible. Commuting to their home in Fallbrook each night simply wasn’t an option.
For two months, the Ronald McDonald House became the Kelsey’s “home-away-from-home.” Being able to stay just steps from the hospital brought peace of mind to the Kelseys. They could be with their son at a moment’s notice. Hours that would otherwise be spent commuting could instead be spent together.
In addition to being close to their brother, siblings Catherine and Kevin were able to keep up with their schoolwork through the onsite “School Away from School.” They made new friends with other children staying at the House. When asked what their favorite thing was about the Ronald McDonald House, they all agreed they couldn’t possibly pick just one thing. They love “everything” about this special place they call home.
Parents Katie and Austin Shappi have their hands full with six children under the age of eleven. Their youngest child, Lucy, has brought special joys but also great challenges: she was born with a congenital heart defect that needed open heart surgery when she was just eleven weeks old. But that surgery at their Orange County hospital unexpectedly took a turn for the worse, and Lucy needed advanced surgery immediately. Lucy and her mom were transferred via life flight to San Diego.
During the next several weeks, San Diego’s Ronald McDonald House became Katie’s “home-away-from-home” that kept her close to her baby in the hospital. The rest of the family joined Katie at the Ronald McDonald House as soon as they could, and Katie and Austin took turns at Lucy’s side. Their older children took part in educational enrichment programs and field trips hosted by the Ronald McDonald House. In the evenings, the Shappi children were able to reunite with their parents and enjoy a hot meal together. Katie reflects, “I had no idea that there was an option for our whole family to be together. It was something we were so grateful to have.”
Now home in Orange County, Lucy’s making good progress with her repaired heart. “Our experience was just so good,” continues Katie. “The Ronald McDonald House had everything we ever needed and more. It truly helped to lighten the burden of having a child in the hospital.”