The Jackson Family

From: South Pittsburgh, TN

As a former McDonald’s employee, Katherine Jackson had no idea what the Ronald McDonald House would end up meaning to her. At only 34 weeks, she gave birth to her first baby boy, Drake. Drake was born weighing only three pounds and fourteen ounces. He struggled with his breathing and temperature, which meant he needed to stay in the NICU for an extended amount of time. This is when the Jackson family was first introduced to the Ronald McDonald House.

Katherine shared that she knew about the donation boxes at McDonald’s but did not know what the donations went towards. For the next 15 days, she was able to stay close to her baby boy and see firsthand how the donations made an impact.

“I was extremely scared and did not know what to expect. I did not know if there was an amount I had to pay to stay or if I needed to help with chores.” – Katherine, mom

Fast forward five years, Katherine found out she was pregnant again, but this time with a baby girl. The initial ultrasound showed that there were no issues with this pregnancy, but months later, Katherine found was told she had a short cervix and would have to be put on bed rest. At 26 weeks, Katherine’s water broke and Farrah was born on May 8. Once again, the Chattanooga Ronald McDonald House was able to help her and her family stay close.

During Katherine’s first stay, she was without family, but the second time she was able to stay with Drake and her oldest daughter, Aaliyah. When asked about her stay, Katherine said it was amazing to have a place to stay where she didn’t have to worry about a long commute from South Pittsburgh to see Farrah each day. She was also able to find a safe place in the House, the chapel, where she was comforted by another mom who had stayed at the House before.

Katherine’s advice to other families is, “Hang in there, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel; take it one day at a time.”

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The Castaneda Cranmore Family

From: Hamilton County, TN

Maria, Dustin, Lily and Baby Rosita

You can imagine the bond a mother creates with her child after carrying her baby for several months. Many mothers come to the Ronald McDonald House with great relief knowing they will be able to stay close to their newborn baby in the hospital just across the street. Maria and Dustin have felt that relief twice as they were able to stay at the Chattanooga Ronald McDonald House in 2015 when their daughter Lily was born and then again when their daughter Rosita was born on May 4.

Maria and Dustin didn’t know about the Ronald McDonald House when their first daughter, Lily was born. Maria shared how it felt to find out about the House for the first time:

“When I had [Lily] I knew she was going to be in the NICU and I was worried because I felt like, ‘what am I going to do, I can’t just leave her.’ Then the social worker came in and told me about the Ronald McDonald House. I was just blown away and I couldn’t believe it. I said ‘You mean there’s somewhere I can stay and still make my way over to see her every day?’ I mean it was just a blessing. Then when we got to RMHC it was just amazing! The only thing you have to worry about is just walking across the street to see your baby. I mean all of that was just so comforting and made me feel better and made me worry less. It’s an amazing place.”

Though Lily was born 29 weeks early at 2 pounds and 3 ounces, she didn’t have severe complications. Altogether, she spent two months in the hospital as she recovered from jaundice, BRADYS and learned to eat and breathe on her own.

The hardest part for Maria and her husband was “leaving them there and not being able to take them home. Knowing they had to be there, but it’s hard to be a part. If I hadn’t been able to stay at the Ronald McDonald House and see them like I did every day, I wouldn’t have been able to sleep at night. “That’s the great thing about the Ronald McDonald House, the fact that it’s so close to the hospital, I mean you don’t even have to drive and go far”

When Rosita, little sister, was born at 33 weeks she weighed 6 pounds and 12 ounces. Though she didn’t have many complications, doctors still felt she needed more time in the NICU before going home. Maria and Dustin felt relieved when they learned they would be able to stay at the House once again.

After staying for the second time around Maria shared how grateful they were. “The fact that I knew everything was going to be okay and I knew I was going to be able to go to the NICU every day and see her. It was just worry free from then on. There’s no other place I would rather be than there because it’s so close to your child and you’re able to go and see them every day.”

After only a week at the House, Maria and Dustin received news that their little girl was ready to go home. Rosita was able to recover from jaundice and learned to feed within a week. She was released on Mother’s Day!

The Holt Family

From: Turtletown, TN

Jonathan, Anya, Danielle and Lowell Holt

Jonathan Holt was only six days old when he stopped breathing. Doctors found an abnormal brain bleed, and assumed it would heal on its own. Though they continued to watch Jonathan, at the time he was only diagnosed with acid reflux. It was only four months later when he developed a cyst between his eyebrows and was brought in for an MRI. Though it seemed like a simple cyst, the MRI results revealed cerebral brain volume loss and doctors were baffled at how much Jonathan was even functioning at the time. According to the tests, Jonathan should have been a vegetable.

Five months later, Jonathan began having seizures that are also known as infantile spasms. These seizures tend to start early and can be the most damaging a baby can have. It was during this time that hospital visits became more frequent and Danielle, Lowell, Anya Holt and even the grandparents, who are a part of the support system, needed a place to stay close to Jonathan without the financial burden. The Holt family has already been able to use the Chattanooga Ronald McDonald House five times when Jonathan has needed treatments or care in the hospital across the street!

“We’ve stayed in a van before when we’ve been at other hospitals. Rooms are so expensive in those other places and we couldn’t afford a room for every single night. Just to be able to have a place where we can all stay helps us,” shared Danielle, mom.

For the Holt family, it’s important that someone is staying with Jonathan at all times around the clock. They don’t want him to wake up lonely and not see a familiar face, like his family’s. Being able to stay near to Jonathan, having his older sister Anya stay with them and the family support they need has made the world of difference for Danielle and Lowell.

Anya, at times has spent 2-3 weeks without getting to see her brother. She shared that the best part of staying at RMH Chattanooga for her was, “getting to stay and see my brother.” Both parents agreed that even for Jonathan, having his big sister around makes a huge difference in his demeanor.

As Jonathan has spent more time in the hospital and after receiving genetics tests back, the Holt family learned Jonathan has a rare disease that out of 500 kids worldwide diagnosed, he is only one of 20 males to have it. BPAN, Beta-propeller Protein-associated Neuro-degeneration, is a disorder that is characterized by childhood developmental delay and seizures, with adult-onset movement problems, including dystonia and Parkinsonism. Essentially, Jonathan’s disorder attacks his system in a way that everything he learns over time will eventually be lost.

The biggest source of comfort for the Holt family has been, “Knowing that we can get over there really quickly and have a place to stay near him,” said Lowell, dad.

The Gossett Family

Richard, Gavin & Debra Gossett

From: Harrison, TN

Five years ago, Richard and Debra Gossett had their first baby, a boy named Gavin. Debra had some complications during her pregnancy and when Gavin was born he spent some time in the NICU and they were able to stay at the Chattanooga Ronald McDonald House. Little did they know the second pregnancy would follow a similar path.

In 2018, the Gossett family found out they were going to have twins. Within nine short weeks of receiving that news, Debra miscarried one of the babies. This news hit them hard, but they continued to be hopeful that their other baby girl, Cambria Faith, would be born.

At 29 weeks, Debra’s water broke early and she spent 13 days in the hospital anxiously awaiting their baby girl. After their many struggles, Cambria was born on February 2nd and placed in intensive care. In addition to being born several weeks early, she was born on a CPAP machine and had a couple of “brady episodes,” this is where the body pauses in breathing that normally lasts longer than 20 seconds.

Checking in to the Ronald McDonald House, Debra and Richard felt a huge relief. Though they didn’t live too far away in Harrison, Richard still had to go to work every day with the family car. Without Ronald McDonald House Debra wouldn’t have been able to stay right beside her baby girl.

“She was in the hospital for such a long time before the baby came. Gavin and I had to go back and forth and stay at the hospital until bedtime every day and then repeat that routine the next day. Now, being able to have the family back together, that’s what this has allowed us to do, get back together again. It’s helped [Gavin] a lot because he was having a hard time.” – Richard, dad

When asked what their experience was like staying here, both parents admitted there were several big things that offered a lot of relief for them. Being able to have their son Gavin with them, visit Cambria right across the street and not having to think about the other expenses, such as meals.

“Ronald McDonald House goes above and beyond to make sure there is comfort. We’ve had so many people offer to help us and we just feel like every little need is met here. It’s just surreal.” – Debra, mom

The Lane Family

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Meet the Lane family!

From: Tullahoma, TN

You truly never know what will happen. Tyler and Veronica stayed at the Chattanooga Ronald McDonald House two years ago when their oldest son was born prematurely. Little did they know they would need it again when their second child was born.

Logan Lane was born Saturday, January 26 weighing 8lb 6 oz.  Just two days later he developed what doctors assumed was only a small infection and he was admitted to Children’s Hospital at Erlanger at 2 o’clock in the morning. Just a few hours later, the Lane family was able to be checked into the House and felt blessed and relieved to be able to stay close to their son across the street.

When asked about their stay at the House, Tyler stated, “We love it here! The food, your own room and a bed, it just has a ‘homie’ feeling.”

Though not normally found in newborns, doctors tested and treated Baby Logan for Fifth Disease, a highly contagious illness causing a distinctive face rash. The Lane family stayed at the House for 25 days while Logan recovered.

“I didn’t know about the Ronald McDonald House before we stayed the first time,” shared Veronica, mom. It’s good to be able to stay close when you have a baby or family member in the hospital. It’s a lot of stress to think about a two hour drive.”

The Runyon family

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From: Rocky Face, GA

Meet the Runyon family! Almost two years ago, they first stayed at Ronald McDonald House Chattanooga when their twins were born. They have benefited from the Share A Night fund many times as Whitleigh, the girl twin, has VACTERL association: vertebral defects, anal atresia, cardiac defects, tracheo-esophageal fistula, renal anomalies and limb abnormalities. In total, the Runyon family was able to stay 46 nights! To this day, Whitleigh has already received six different surgeries and still has several more planned within the next year.

Without the RMHC Share-A-Night Fund, they would have been worried about yet another bill during a time that Whitleigh needed them most. Giving the Runyon’s, and other countless families, a place full of hope and close to resources Whitleigh needed – that’s what you can help provide.   

Just like expenses have increased at your house, RMHC’s cost to provide our services to each family have increased too. During 2018, we added 2 rooms to be able to serve more families and thanks to your generous support, we were able to serve 517 families last year.  In addition, there is now 24-hour staff in place to accommodate the family’s needs at any given time. With your help, we are providing services to a lot of families. Will you continue to support our Share-A-Night Fund so that every family can concentrate on their sick child and not worry about the cost of staying near their child?  Will you please help?  $75 provides everything a family needs each night!

Whether you give one time or decide to join our monthly giving club, your gift will help lift the financial burden of so many families like Paige, Brian, Ansleigh, Wallace and Whitleigh’s. THANK YOU for being a part of this mission!

Meet the Foster family

foster family 2

From: McCaysville, GA

Jessica and Joe Foster, after trying to conceive for seven years, were told they were going to have a little girl. But, Jessica’s pregnancy did not come without complications. At 13 weeks Jessica began having problems. Doctors determined Jessica’s body was having issues that could ultimately cause a late miscarriage or even a preterm birth. She was scheduled for an operation right away and went in for a surgical procedure that doctors hoped would help prevent her body from doing so.

At 27 weeks Jessica began having contractions and had signs of early labor. She was brought from her home town in Georgia to Erlanger and they kept her for about five days. Since it was apparent Jessica needed to be watched for signs and the possibility of her going in to premature labor, arrangements were made for her and her mom, Cherie, to stay at Ronald McDonald House.

Jessica and her mother stayed for a little over a month as her body tried to go into premature labor every week, but doctors told her if she could make it to 34 weeks, they would release her to go home.

From the moment Jessica, Joe and Cherie arrived at Ronald McDonald House, they felt a sense of relief and support.

It definitely feels like a home. A home away from home. Every time we go somewhere we say ‘Okay, we’re going home’. It’s a really nice feeling to be able to come here. It’s a wonderful place.” – Cherie, Jessica’s mom.

After Jessica was able to go two weeks without delivering, she was able to make it home for Christmas. The family is thankful for all the love and support they found at Ronald McDonald House. After being home for the holidays, they welcomed Lakota Jane Foster just in time for the New Year!