Exceeding Expectations: Nora’s Story

Rob and Jennifer yearned to become parents for years, decades even. Throughout the years, they never gave up hope and then, finally, their prayers were answered. “Nora came to us late in life thanks to the wonders of modern medicine,” says Jennifer. “She was born a month before my 44th birthday. She’s our greatest blessing.”

Nora was diagnosed with high-functioning autism just before her second birthday. Like many children on the autism spectrum, Nora was particularly sensitive to the textures, look, and smell of foods, which led to food aversions. Her parents tried countless therapies with her soon after she was diagnosed but did not see much progress.

During an appointment at their local hospital in Bowling Green, Kentucky, their therapist happened to mention that she’d recently completed a training relative to feeding therapy offered by the Peyton Manning Center for Children in Evansville. She encouraged Rob and Jennifer to contact the center.

“I was on the phone with one of the clinic doctors 30 minutes later, I told her that we really needed help for Nora, that we had tried everything with very little success. At two-and-a-half she’s still eating baby food,” says Jennifer, “We don’t know what else to do,” Nora was scheduled for an evaluation at the Center for Children in Evansville and started therapies soon after.

Their next worry was how they would make it work. Their medical expenses were already adding up, and they couldn’t fathom the thought of what their living expenses would be with Nora receiving therapy so far from home. When they learned about Ronald McDonald House, they felt both apprehension and relief. “As soon as we checked in, I looked around and immediately burst into tears because I felt I was in a kind and welcoming place. Food, laundry, playrooms, everything we needed was there. A sense of peace just fell over me.”

The family stayed at the Ronald McDonald House on Washington Avenue, just minutes from the Center for Children, 17 times over the course of the next 3 years. Nora’s progress was slow, but she eventually graduated to solid food. On one of her last days in Evansville, Nora went to McDonald’s for a Happy Meal. “For the first time in her life, at five years old, my little girl had a Happy Meal — and she liked it!” recalls Jennifer. Jennifer also remembers the customer in front of her rounding up the change from his order for Ronald McDonald House Charities. She felt moved to share a bit of her story with him so that he might experience the importance of his generosity first-hand. “He was very touched and appreciative,” she says.

Nora graduated from the feeding clinic in 2021 and now lives with her parents in Loveland, Colorado, where she is thriving. Rob and Jennifer were thrilled when asked to be interviewed for a “where are they now” story. Nora is a very active eight-year-old. She plays violin and piano, takes horseback-riding lessons, and is a student at the Montessori Little Kitchen Academy, a school that teaches kids about growing and cooking food. a complete “full circle” for Nora, her parents say.

“We are forever grateful to Ronald McDonald House. We will never forget our time there and the friendships we made with volunteers and staff and all the other families we met over the years. We will always be a Ronald McDonald House family,”