And up pops this site: kaylenfoundation.org and I'm intrigued—I have a foundation with MY name?? I MUST volunteer there.
So I go to the story about the founder: baby Kaylen
And it's a sad tale about a baby who died…and her name was….Kaylen Marie!!
Um, that's MY NAME!!!
I must do something to provide a little support to this organization.
They have a partnership with a local spa to provide a day away for families who are in extended stays at the hospital with their sick child. What a GREAT idea. And they have a limo service that provides transportation.
It always kills me when I think of how horrifying it must be for a parent to have a child who is dying from some horrible illness, or just chronically ill and it seems like you are just standing by helpless and miserable, unable to help your baby-and then on top of that, your entire world is really on hold and you no longer take care of anything but your basic needs. The idea of sending a mom in this situation to a nice two-hour break at a local spa is awesome.
Every Easter, we host a dinner for the families staying at the local Ronald McDonald House. Every Easter, I get a little taste of what it would be like if my child wasn't healthy and robust (and eating 5 meals a day and outgrowing his shoes every 4 months). It's very touching to be in the RM house – you see first-hand how devastating an illness can be. One of the stories that lingers most with me was the woman from Alaska whose child was in the hospital. She had a great connection with my teen Andrew – they had a good report from the very start, joking around together and such. She fed him copious amounts of sugar and kept insisting that I should treasure every minute with him always. We try to be very unobtrusive to the families who are staying at the house – we talk to them if they make a move to interact with us, but otherwise, we are really there to just provide a nice easter dinner that they might normally would have had at home with their family if they weren't spending weeks at a time in the hospital with their sick child. We give them a small chance to step away from their tragedy to eat a very nice, well-balanced, home-cooked meal and just have a nice dinner with any visiting family members.
So our Alaska friend: She was in and out of the room for the full four hours we were there. She was VERY friendly and talked to everyone, but kept gravitating towards Andrew. We never had introductions or anything – we just kept on making dinner and chit-chatting. She ate dinner with us and towards the end of our time there, I asked her if we could get a picture with her. As she was joking around with Andrew and getting ready for the picture, she said to me "your son is such a joy-he reminds me so much of Andrew" and then you could hear crickets….
and my son looked at me and I looked at him and she looked at us….and then she said, "I had a son who died who would have been this same age (15) and his name was Andrew."
And then Andrew said, "my name is Andrew."
And then it was her turn to say nothing….and then she was on the edge of tears.
She was at the house because her young child was in the hospital...but she unfortunately had been to the same place a few years prior, when her oldest son had a life-threatening illness that actually took his life. And his name was Andrew. And he would have been the same age as my Andrew.
The Ronald McDonald House is such a great place. One of the most touching stories I heard was how achild in Eastern Oregon was involved in an accident of some kind (no details on that). The police arrived at the mothers house and told her that lifeflight (a medical helicopter) was on its way to pick up the child at the scene and she needed to get there NOW in order to ride with her child to the largest hospital, about five hours away, where doctors were already on standby for the child. The mother rushed out of the house in her shorts and a t-shirt. No shoes, no purse-nothing—just ran to the car and off they went. Her child was sent straight to surgery and then it was planned that there would be an extended hospital stay directly after. Someone at the hospital apparently looks out for these situations and the mom was given a place to stay at the RMH. Once at the house, they gave her some clothes and shoes, a meal (her first in 24 hours) and set her up for a two week stay (her child ended up recovering well). She has no family or friends nearby, she was all alone in a strange place with a child who was on deaths door and she doesn't even have shoes....what a horrible situation.
It's just heart-warming to know that there are people out there who care.
The Ronald McDonald house gets donations from various places and groups of people. Groups come in almost nightly to make meals for the families (alleviating the pressure of having your child in the hospital AND having to figure out meals for the rest ofthe family every night). Kits are made to help keep any siblings occupied and sane. It's just wonderful.
Pics from my Ronald McDonald House easter dinner in the past:
The volunteer group 2006
and...2008 group shot (oops--can't find it right now....)