Meet the Runyon Family

Runyon familyRonald McDonald House strives to keep families near their children while they are receiving the medical attention they need. The first time Paige and Brian Runyon stayed they were here with their 6-year-old daughter, Ansleigh, for 30 days while their newborn twins, Wallace and Whitleigh, recovered. The second time, mom, dad and Ansleigh stayed for about a week while Whitleigh mended from her second procedure.

When baby Whitleigh was born the Runyons were given news that her body was unable to properly process food. She has VACTERL association, a condition that involves vertebral defects, anal atresia, cardiac defects, tracheo-esophageal fistula, renal anomalies, and limb abnormalities. Those diagnosed with VACTERL association typically have at least three of these, but surprisingly she was born with all except limb abnormalities.

“It was scary the first time we were here, but once here for a little while it became our second home,” shared Paige.

Little Whitleigh may have to have several procedures still, but after her “pull through surgery” it is clear she was born to climb mountains and overcome the odds. By the way she smiles and interacts with people, you would have no idea she had complications.

Before leaving, Paige shared some advice to other parents with sick children, “Just breathe, because if you’re uptight and stressed your children can feel it. There’s always a friendly face here and someone to talk to.”



Meet the Llewellyn Family

Staying at Ronald McDonald House is nothing new to John and Jessica Llwellyn.

They SmallerImageSistersstayed here once before when their two year old daughter, Adelle, affectionately known as “Littlebit”, was in the hospital. John, Jessica and daughter Flora “Halfpint” stayed at Ronald McDonald House for three months waiting for Littlebit to get strong enough to go home. Now the two sisters are waiting patiently at Ronald McDonald House for their baby brother, Gunner, to come home.

During the end of her pregnancy, Jessica and John made ten trips back and forth to the hospital with signs of early labor. Their current stay started Christmas Eve when their baby boy was born, weighing 5 pounds 8 ounces. Gunner’s lungs needed more time to fully develop so he was brought to the NICU at Erlanger and the Llewellyn family checked into Ronald McDonald House for the second time. After just two weeks, he is now 5 pounds 12 ounces. His lungs are strong and he no longer needs to be on oxygen. Gunner is getting stronger by the day and is expected to be able to go home soon.


When asked about their stay at Ronald McDonald House, Mom Jessica replied, “It’s just so nice to be close to him”.

Meet the Hill Family

Rodney and Ashley Hill never thought they would be able to have kids. Imagine their shock when a routine visit to the doctor turned into finding out they would soon be parents.

Hill FamDoctors had told Ashley as a young woman she would not be able to get pregnant due to her having a medical condition called spina bifida, which requires her to use a wheelchair. They told her even if she did get pregnant Ashley would likely not survive the delivery. The days following the discovery that she was pregnant were steeped in fear, but eventually peace that God would take care of Ashley and the baby.

As the time for baby Jeri-Lynn to arrive grew closer, their plans to deliver at 28 weeks suddenly changed. Ashley faced medical complications that caused an infection to spread throughout her body. Nurses told her if they had gone ahead with the delivery as planned she would not have made it. After having the delivery date pushed back multiple times and a long stay in Erlanger hospital, baby Jeri-Lynn was born at 35 weeks weighing 4 pounds 14 ounces. The baby was then admitted to the NICU to be monitored. Being 85 miles from home, Rodney and Ashley checked in to Ronald McDonald House just across the street.

From the moment they came to the Ronald McDonald House, Ashley and Rodney felt a sense of overwhelming support. They said the staff went out of their way multiple times to make sure they had what they needed. One staff member even stayed late and found Ashley a ride to the doctor when she was not able to get there on her own. Rodney and Ashley loved that they could talk to the staff and confide in them without judgment. The couple felt the home-cooked meals and the amenities were a huge help but, “At the end of the day, it was the families and the staff, who made it feel like home.”

Today, two month old Jeri-Lynn, or “JJ” as they call her, is a true daddy’s girl. Mom says the baby knows when it is close to time for Dad to get home and starts to cry for him. She is getting stronger every day and is starting to hold her head up. The family is thankful for the love and support they found at Ronald McDonald House and said it made the experience so much easier.

Meet the Davis Family

After Shannon and Chris welcomed beautiful twin girls Leah and Christina in 2014 into

Davis Family

the world, they faced complications. Shannon was admitted to Erlanger Hospital’s high risk unit. Shortly after admittance, Shannon and Chris received paramount news about their newborns that caused instant fear.

Leah was healthy and just needed to grow in the NICU but unfortunately, Christina faced a different road. For the past three years, she has been on a journey battling epilepsy and heart disease.

While the twins were in the hospital, the Davis family found a home at the Chattanooga Ronald McDonald House. They were

welcomed with open arms and open hearts.

“We love it at the House! There they don’t treat you like a burden. The people there will just hug you!” said Shannon

Shannon found a lot of comfort in the Ronald McDonald House while her daughters were in the NICU. She was able to lean on the staff and volunteers at the House while she cared for her daughters. Staying at the House gave her the ability to be close to the girls and see them at any time. She cherished a warm bed to sleep in while catching up from the hectic events of the day.

Fast forward to this past September, Shannon and Chris were able to stay at the Ronald McDonald House for the second time. Staying at the House gave them the opportunity to be close by while Christina had to go back to Erlanger to get various tests.

Today, Christina is back at home with her sister Leah and they are living life to the fullest. They have become best friends over the years!

Meet the Sharp Family

After spending nearly ten years trying to have a baby, Natalie and her husband Lance IMG_1752 received the best birthday gift she could receive on her birthday— the birth of her son McKade. Through patience and perseverance, they were blessed with two children within nine months of each other. How so? It just so happens that nine months prior to the birth of McKade, they adopted a beautiful girl named Marlee.

“We couldn’t believe it. We are so blessed to be Marlee’s parents and to find out that we were pregnant after years of trying was surreal,” said Natalie.

While giving birth, Natalie and McKade both picked up a virus that put them both in danger. Once McKade was born, he was rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit where they discovered he had spinal meningitis, inflammation of the brain and spinal cord membranes. With a baby at home and a baby here at Erlanger Hospital Natalie and Lance found refuge at the Ronald McDonald house of Greater Chattanooga.

Staying at the Ronald McDonald house allowed them the ability to spend time with both of their babies. Being so close to Hospital, they had the ability to walk over at any time of the day or night to be able to feed and care for him. During the early evening, Marlee and her grandparents would go to the Ronald McDonald House to have dinner with her mom and dad.

While staying at the Ronald McDonald House, Natalie and Lance discovered they were staying in the exact same room that their family did seven years prior. The Ronald McDonald House has seen many families throughout the years and for them to be able to stay in the same room that their family also got to stay in was truly something special.

“I am overwhelmed by the ability to be able to stay here at the Ronald McDonald House,” said Natalie.

After a little over a week of staying at the House, McKade was able to grow healthy enough to leave the NICU. He is now at home with his mom, dad, and proud big sister.

Meet the Thompson Family

A few years ago, Katie and Dennis Thompson were given the gift of a newborn baby boy  OctoberFrontnamed Jaxon. Little did they know they would be given the same gift a few years later with baby Kaleb. Both sons happened to enter the world earlier than planned. Luckily, Katie and Dennis were able to stay at the Chattanooga Ronald McDonald House both times.

Their firstborn son, Jaxon, was born eight weeks early causing various issues. At the time, Katie and Dennis lived over an hour away from Children’s Hospital at Erlanger, where they specialized in preemie cases. Because of this, they immediately rushed Jaxon to Erlanger as quick as they could despite living over an hour away. They made it safely to the neonatal intensive care unit and Jaxon was able to receive the care he needed. However, he wasn’t the only one to be cared for; both Katie and Dennis were able to be taken care of at the Chattanooga Ronald McDonald House.

They enjoyed all the amenities provided including a private bedroom, full bathroom, dinner and snacks. Even while Jaxon was in the NICU, Katie’s mom was also able to stay with her while her husband worked. After 42 days, they returned home as a happy family of three.

Then fast forward to the birth of their second son Kaleb on August 24 of this year. He was born six weeks early and needed to receive care at the Children’s Hospital at Erlanger NICU. Baby Kaleb was hooked up to a feeding tube and Katie and Dennis sought care at the Ronald McDonald House for the second time.

As they made themselves temporarily at home, they rested in the fact that they were able to stay together as a family. During their second stay, Jaxon was able to be with them at the House and enjoy the playroom.

“I don’t know what I would do without this place,” said Katie.

After 11 nights, they were able to return home with their newest son, Kaleb. Today, Kaleb has continued to grow into a fun-loving healthy little brother and son.

Meet the Cody Family

Sally and Kyle of Hayesville, North Carolina have three handsome boys, Jacob, Levi and IMG_5991their newest, Malachi born on July 11. Unfortunately, Malachi’s birth was followed up with worry and fear as he had episodes of apnea.

Since they live over two hours away from Children’s Hospital at Erlanger, they checked in to the Chattanooga Ronald McDonald House. Albeit, this was not their first or second time staying at the House- it was their third.

“Without the Ronald McDonald House, it would be so stressful,” said Sally.

Their first stay was in 2009 for 12 days and then again in 2013 for 14. Both Jacob and Levi had traumatic experiences at birth in outlying hospitals where they had to be transferred into Children’s Hospital at Erlanger. Because of Jacob and Levi’s birth scares, Sally and Kyle decided to deliver Malachi at Erlanger—and they’re glad they did.

Because of Malachi’s apnea, he was monitered, had a CT scan, MRI, several blood tests and an echocardiogram to make sure his heart and lungs were performing correctly.

Over the course of a couple days, they received good news from his blood work and his apnea was doing better, they found out what he had was an iron deficiency. After 24 hours of taking iron supplements, the episodes resolved.

Thankfully, their third stay at the Chattanooga Ronald McDonald House was their shortest stay of only four days. Sally and Kyle were just as grateful during their third stay as they were the first.

“We’re very grateful to have the opportunity to stay at the Ronald McDonald House. It’s always an overwhelming feeling.”

Today, Malachi is doing great without any issues and the family is loving their new son and little brother.