We are Becca and Steve from West Lafayette, where we have lived for the past 8 years. Our 10-year-old daughter, Sophie, was admitted to Evansville Psychiatric Children’s Center (EPCC) at the beginning of December 2022 and remained there until the beginning of June 2023. Since that time, we have added another child to our family through the miracle of adoption, Sarah. She is currently 4 months old.
Our journey with Ronald McDonald House Charities began after our daughter was admitted to EPCC. We were emotionally exhausted. Our daughter was struggling considerably with an emotional disability that she has had since birth. Her temper was explosive and she was constantly irritable and irrational. The medications were not helping and we were constantly in crisis mode for about a year. She was accepted to EPCC but getting her to the facility and then leaving her there was a burden that was almost too heavy to bear. How could we leave our 9-year-old (at the time) little girl in the hands of complete strangers?
We vowed to visit as often as we could, fearing that the financial burden of driving 4 hours each way and getting a hotel every time we visited would drain our savings. Sophie’s therapist at EPCC recommended we stay at the Ronald McDonald House while visiting Sophie on the weekends. We did not know what to expect other than a place to rest our heads at night for much less than it would cost for a hotel.
The first time we stayed at the Washington House on a cold wintery night, we will never forget the tour that Patty gave us. The cozy sitting areas with the fireplace warmly lit, the dining area, all those kitchens! And the pantry and refrigerator stocked with food, plus a complete laundry room free of charge? We were blown away. The tears flowed freely. When she took us to our room, I remember an overwhelming feeling of LOVE that presided over this house that we would call our second home for the next six months. It was a safe haven from the storm of uncertainty that surrounded our daughter and her mental health.
As the weeks went by, we developed a routine of traveling to Evansville on Thursday nights and staying until Saturday or Sunday. We began looking forward to not only visiting our daughter but also the volunteers who worked so tirelessly and joyfully at the House along with other families, some of which we still stay in contact with today. One family in particular shared Christmas with us as they were navigating the early arrival and NICU admission of their first child. It was a very different Christmas for both of our families but our shared experiences created a connection that lasts to this day. After three months, their little one was ready to go home. They were an Amish couple without transportation and lived about an hour away. We were more than willing to take them and their precious little boy back home! It was such a joy to be able to do so.
Our daughter’s progress in the program at EPCC was slow and as time went on, we started staying at the Ronald McDonald House for longer and longer periods of time so we could be close to her. During that time we became acquainted with many of the volunteers. In particular we really enjoyed Joe’s ornery personality and hearing stories of his experiences as a police detective before he retired. One night after a big storm shut off the power, we spent several hours getting to know Patty. We always arrived for our stays late in the evening and were often greeted by Dennis’s friendly smile at the front desk. Maddi and some of the other full-time employees always got super excited and were so grateful when Steven made homemade bread and other treats in the kitchen.
There were many other families we also got to know, especially towards the end of our stay, that we are still in contact with. We appreciated hearing their stories and connecting over our shared experiences with having our lives uprooted by hospitalizations of our children. Most of the other families either had NICU babies or children using the feeding clinic, but we always felt accepted and welcomed. We always looked forward to our visits at the Washington House. Sharing stories and experiences with others lifted our spirits and gave us the HOPE necessary to press forward with faith that one day our daughter would get better.
Sophie started to make significant progress at the beginning of May and slowly we were able to take her on off campus visits. She stayed with us a handful of nights at the Ronald McDonald House and each time, she always felt impressed to “give back” by doing some type of service. Whether it was making cookies for other families or helping us clean different areas of the house to pass the time, we were so grateful for the positive influence that the Washington House had on our daughter.
I think what is most important about the work Ronald McDonald House Charities does is relieving the temporal burdens of parents so they can be there emotionally and spiritually for their children. We would not have been able to visit our daughter as often as we did if it were not for RMHC. We are forever grateful for not just the bed and hot showers, but the love, support and care we felt while were there. Thank you so much RMHC! Your work is a gift to humanity and especially to God’s little ones who are suffering all throughout the world.
– Becca and Steve