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Local family shares impact of Ronald McDonald House ahead of McHappy Day

By Sam Odrowski

When parents face the incredible challenge of supporting their sick children at a hospital that's far away from home, providing them with a place to land so they can stay close by is essential.

With this in mind, for the last 40 years, Ronald McDonald House Charity (RMHC) has provided parents with a home away from home while their kids receive care. To help raise money for RMHC and children's charities across Canada, the annual McHappy Day is being held on Sept. 22, with a fundraising target of $6.6 million.

Locally, Kayla and Matthew Hillier who are from Orangeville, used Ronald McDonald House Toronto while their son Adam received care for his esophageal atresia and tracheoesophageal fistula at Sick Kids Hospital, back in 2018.

“Ronald McDonald House Charities Toronto is absolutely amazing. Everybody who works there and volunteers there feels like family and friends,” said Kayla.

"From the minute you wake up in the morning to as soon as you walk through the door at night – even at midnight – we would walk through and there would always be somebody there to greet us. Somebody to smile and ask us how our day was.”

Kayla added that the environment and experience at Ronald McDonald House was a “lifesaver” for her and Matthew. RMHC's Home for Dinner program where dinner is cooked by volunteers and the bagged lunch program was very helpful as well.

“It's the little things like that, where they honestly make you feel like you're part of a family and it really truly becomes a home away from home,” said Kayla. “We're just super grateful as a family for everything that Ronald McDonald House has done for us, keeping us close to Adam when we needed it most."

Since being discharged from Sick Kids in November of 2018, Adam's condition has significantly improved, with respect to his esophageal atresia and tracheoesophageal fistula, which is when the esophagus cannot carry food from the mouth to stomach because of an abnormal development before birth.

"We're very blessed that he's doing as well as he is right now,” said Kayla. “He's a healthy, happy rambunctious three-and-a-half-year-old.”

She told the Citizen Adam still gets the odd health scare but for the most part, he's been doing well.

A couple years after Adam was released, in November of last year, Kayla and her friend Jessica developed a blog, podcast, and support group called Beyond the Beads to provide support and resources to parents who've had children in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The name comes from Sick Kids' Bravery Beads, which are beads that kids receive after each procedure, test, scan, etc. they receive during their stay.

A challenge faced by Kayla and many other parents of medically complex children who are hospitalized, is maintaining good mental health once they're settled back in at home.

“When you get home, that's kind of when everything hits you,” she said. “You're home because your child is feeling better, but that's when the mental health really starts to take a turn for parents and family members and friends."

Through Beyond the Beads, a lot of the anxiety parents may feel around providing care to their children at home is addressed, and they provide education or tips on things like administering feeding tubes.

“That's something that we've been working on as a way to give back and help the community,” said Kayla, noting RMHC and Sick Kids have given her family so much.

Earlier this year, Beyond the Beads collaborated with local business, Lovaloladaisy, to donate 60 gift boxes, filled with over $300 worth of locally sourced goodies, to mothers staying at RMHC Toronto on Mother's Day (May 9). A Mother's Day steak dinner was also sponsored and hosted by Beyond the Beads the same day, featuring professional chefs.

Lots of businesses in Orangeville and the surrounding area donated supplies to fill the boxes.

"Everything from bookmarks to bath bomb products and just different treats, we wanted to put things in to really make mama's feel good on a day that is hard for us, especially living at the hospital and being away from home,” said Kayla.

To learn more about Beyond the Beads, visit:

Looking ahead to McHappy Day on Sept. 22, Kayla said she'd encourage everyone to participate or donate to RMHC.

“Living in Orangeville, if it wasn't for RMH we have no idea of what we would have done, like they are literal lifesavers,” said Kayla. “When you're donating to the Ronald McDonald House Charities, it's going to help people in your community."



Post date: 2021-09-16 16:52:56
Post date GMT: 2021-09-16 20:52:56
Post modified date: 2021-09-23 15:41:12
Post modified date GMT: 2021-09-23 19:41:12

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