The Massengale Family

FamilyPhotoWith several unsuccessful pregnancies to leave Kara Massengale and her husband, Brent, heartbroken, it was only natural for them to be fearful when they found out they were pregnant once again. At just 17 weeks pregnant, things didn’t seem hopeful. That didn’t stop them from believing their son, Brooks, would survive.
At nearly eight weeks early, Brooks beat the odds with the exception of a brain bleed. Two
weeks after his birth, he was stable and it was only a matter of time before he grew big enough to be discharged from the hospital.

The doctors estimated Brooks’ NICU stay to be two-months-long. With the estimated stay, the thought of driving back and forth from Dayton, Tennessee multiple times a day seemed like another daunting stressor added to the equation. Then, Kara and Brent found hope in the Chattanooga Ronald McDonald House®.

“It’s so nice to have a reliable place to stay and an opportunity to meet other families,” BabyBrooksKara said.

“We’re able to see our son more. I would be sleeping in the NICU if [the Ronald McDonald House] was not here.”

The Massengales have stayed at the Ronald McDonald House for over 47 nights and found rest, comfort and community in the House with mothers’ and fathers’ also going through difficult times.

The McAnly Family

DSCN6860Laura and her husband, Michael, from Hillsboro, Tennessee recently stayed at the Chattanooga Ronald McDonald House for a second time during May and June. Their beautiful newborn triplets, Benjamin, Thaddeus and Nathanael came into the world eight weeks early. Although, this wasn’t their first stay.

The first time they stayed at the House was in August of 2014 when their newborn daughter, Annabelle, had a stroke and uncontrolled seizures. She ended up staying in the intensive care unit and was later well enough to go home that September. Little did Laura and Michael know, they would be back again nearly two years later.

When their triplets were born early, they checked in to the House. This time, Annabelle was by her parent’s side and got to stay close to her three new little brothers!

“I really liked to interact with other residents. It was an opportunity to be really encouraged,” said Laura. Both stays were an equally good experience for them during their trying times. They will never take the home cooked meals and private bedrooms for granted. After a 20 night stay, a family that was once a family of three went home as a family of six.

A Second Visit

cropped.jpgAmanda and T.J. Dockery of Murphy, North Carolina once stayed at the Ronald McDonald House® in 2007 when their son Jack was born 16 weeks early. Little did they know, it wouldn’t be their last visit. On Feb. 18, their daughter Hannah was born six weeks early. In addition to being premature, she struggled to eat.

They checked in for their second time just a few days after Hannah’s birth on Feb. 23. Since Amanda was only a short distance from the hospital thanks to the Ronald McDonald House, she was able to be by Hannah’s side and encourage her.

“[Hannah] eats better when I’m feeding her and wouldn’t have progressed as well without the interaction. If it wasn’t for the Ronald McDonald House, I wouldn’t be able to spend time with her.” Amanda said.

While she made sure Hannah was receiving the proper nutrition, Amanda had to get some nutrition of her own. Staying at the Ronald McDonald House served as a gateway for food and rest in order to rejuvenate during a fearful time.

Other than the rest, one of Amanda and T.J.’s favorite parts about the House was the flexibility it offered. Their mothers, Wendy and Gloria, came to visit and help every now and then. Jack was able to visit on the weekends and take advantage of the teen lounge equipped with air hockey and pool tables, board games, computers, a television and plush chairs.

“When Jack comes to visit, the game room is comforting to him. It’s neat to show him that we once stayed here when he was small.”

The Dockery family checked out on March 13 after staying for 19 nights. Today, Hannah is growing and doing well in her own home.

Meet the Stephens Family

IMG_1694.JPG

Randy and Beth Stephens of Cleveland, Tennessee have three children, John, Will and Kate who anticipated meeting their newborn sister Annie on Dec. 21. Between finding out Annie suffered from dandy-walker syndrome, a human brain malformation, and seizures in the hospital which caused Annie to also have hydrocephalus, an excessive accumulation of fluid in the brain, it was uncertain on when Annie’s siblings could meet their newborn sister.

On Dec. 28, Randy and Beth found refuge in the Chattanooga Ronald McDonald House. “This place just highlights all the good in the world,” said Randy Stephens. They considered the House to be an “absolute blessing,” as Beth described it. When they found refuge, they started to find hope.

On Christmas Eve, Annie had a shunt put in to help with her hydrocephalus.

After being separated while their parents tended to their baby sister, John, Will and Kate were finally able to stay with them at the Ronald McDonald House. “My little girl would cry at night because we had to be separated.” Because they were able to stay at the Ronald McDonald House, they could all be together and not miss memories.

Other than being able to stay close to Annie and have the rest of the family stay with them from time to time, Beth appreciated being able to meet others at the House who were also experiencing hardship, “I love the sense of community and meeting other people.”

IMG_1046After days of constant prayer, surgery and care, Annie was discharged from the NICU. Randy and Beth checked out of the Ronald McDonald House on Jan. 18. 

For 21 days they found rejuvenation in the “House that Love built.” “It made all the difference in the world,” Randy said.

Today Annie has a bright future. Her brothers and sisters immersed her with love and were ecstatic when she came home for the first time. “My 7-year-old waved us in. I’ve never seen his face light up so much.”

Appreciate Your Heartbeats

Image

“Great things are brought about and burdens are lightened through the efforts of many hands anxiously engaged in a good cause.” – Elder M. Russel Ballard.

The month of April is one of our favorite months of the year; it’s Volunteer Appreciation Month! Volunteering is an altruistic activity and is intended to promote goodness or improve human quality of life. In return, this activity can produce a feeling of self-worth and respect.1 We consider our volunteers to be the “heartbeat” of the House. Meaning, without our volunteers, our House simply can’t function. Our “heartbeats” participate in helping with administrative work, household chores, preparing meals for the families- and the list continues. Ronald McDonald House Charities volunteers are extraordinary.  In fact, some of our volunteers have been with us ever since the House first opened in 1990! We’re beyond thankful for anyone who has volunteered with us and done extraordinary things through service!

We truly believe volunteering is right for everyone; you develop new skills, help a cause that gives you passion, meet new people, connect with your community, expand your horizons and simply pay it forward. To learn more about our volunteer program and how to get involved, click here.

 

 

1Georgeou, Nichole, Neoliberalism, Development, and Aid Volunteering, New York: Routledge, 2012.

Incredible Kids Who Blow out Their Candles and Make a Donation

Image

Kids across the world look forward to one day a year that’s dedicated to celebrating themselves: birthdays! Birthdays are fabulous; presents, cake, friends and family celebrating solely YOU. Well, we know some pretty encouraging kids that turned their special day from focusing on themselves to focusing on others:

1.) Julia Kilgore

 Image

In lieu of presents for her 9th birthday, Julia asked for donations to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Chattanooga. She raised $540! Along with the monetary donation, the Kilgore family also donated WebKinz stuffed animals.

2.) Caden Walling

ImageInstead of presents for his 8th birthday, Caden raised $50 to donate to RMHC of Chattanooga. He said, “I just wanted to help other people.”

3.) Ava & Olivia Scotchie

Image

Ava and Olivia Scotchie are a double team when it comes to helping families. For the past three years, they’ve asked their friends to make donations to RMHC of Chattanooga instead of gifts. They’ve raised a total of $1,193!

We hope these kids have inspired you to pay it forward as well. If you share… it becomes contagious too! Pass it on and help families at Ronald McDonald House today.