June 17, 2021

A father’s journey caring for his sick child

Fathers Day3

An open letter from an RMHC dad

When I first stepped into the Ronald McDonald House in London, Ontario it was two days before Christmas Day. My legs almost buckled beneath me. My 4-month-old son had just been diagnosed with a very serious illness and we were told the hospital would be his new home for the foreseeable future. I didn’t even know anything about London at the time (having just moved to the area 4 months prior with my wife and 3 children) let alone anything about the Ronald McDonald House except that it was a charitable organization for families in need.

After a warm greeting and some paperwork, I was shown around the common areas of the House. I am usually a friendly person, but I don’t remember talking a lot during that tour. I was still trying to grasp the reality of the new life my wife and I had just been thrown into. Yet, I do remember having a feeling of immediate warmth and kindness. Everything in the space was clean, orderly, comfortable, and purposeful. The large living room was filled with many seating areas and comfortable furniture, there was a playroom for children, and an outside courtyard with climbing equipment. Our private bedroom was like a hotel room with large double beds and a private bathroom. To say I was excited about staying would be an over-statement; but I was definitely relieved that our family had a safe and comfortable place to stay during this unimaginable time.

The RMH would not be the amazing place it is, if it weren’t for the unbelievable staff and volunteers that work there. Because we arrived two days before Christmas my wife and I were still trying to sort through how we would fulfill the expectations our older children had for the holidays. To my immense relief and appreciation, I found a stack of beautifully wrapped presents stacked outside of our door on Christmas morning labelled for our three children, my wife and I. Every holiday, birthday and important event was acknowledged and celebrated there. On our wedding anniversary my wife walked back to our room and noticed that our door had been beautifully decorated with steamers and a card signed by the staff. She said it brought tears to her eyes after an unbelievably difficult night in the hospital with our son.

The volunteers and staff there did not treat RMH like a “place of work”, but a place where families could retreat and find the support needed to survive through another day.

The first time I stepped into RMH London was over 5 years ago. When my family remembers the time during our son’s treatment it is not all filled with tears and sadness. We have so many fond memories that took place in the House. I remember watching my children play in the summertime in the courtyard laughing and dancing. They continue to talk about celebrating their birthdays with family members in the private activity room and choosing a present from the “Treasure Room” on their special day. As a father with a big sweet-tooth, I remember the amazing baked goods and snacks provided daily by the wonderful team of volunteer bakers. It was always a place to help me re-energize before heading up to the hospital, never knowing what the day ahead would be like. It was a place to come “home” to after those really exhausting days.

When my son was finally discharged from the hospital, I remember feeling a little sad to be leaving this place and the people who had become our family members over the past months. It truly was hard to believe when I first stepped through those doors on that cold December night that I would ever have any regrets about leaving that place. How could anyone with a sick child call themselves lucky? But in all honesty, I do feel lucky that the RMH held me up when I wasn’t able to stand that night, and everyday forward. My wife and children cannot agree more. It is a place that we all hold very close to our hearts.

- Jim Howe - 219 nights with RMHC Southwestern Ontario, staying close to Quinton

Fathers Day

Meet more families that have stayed with us!

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The Chikuse family
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The Chikuse Family

During her treatment, Tanya and her family stayed over 220 nights at the Ronald McDonald House in Southern Alberta. But when she found out she would be strong enough to go home, she felt bittersweet about leaving the House.

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