When he was six years old Mike rode his bike to school everyday with his best friend Matt. It was, well…normal. Then one day Matt didn’t show up and when he failed to show up for several more days, Mike’s mom sat him down to explain why.
I remember her trying to explain what was going on but I had no idea what she was talking about.
What Mike’s mom tried to explain to her son, who was suddenly missing his best friend, was that Matt had leukemia and that he was at an area hospital receiving treatment.
The next thing I knew I was spending my Saturday nights at a really cool place where I could see Matt and where we were allowed to play with toys and hang late. It was great and I was even allowed to stay overnight.
That was thirty years ago and the “cool place” was the Ronald McDonald House of Southern, N.J. Matt fully recovered from his illness and although they’re not riding bikes anymore they’re still friends and see each other on occasion. However, Mike’s connection to the Ronald McDonald House didn’t end there. Just a few years ago he and his wife spent several nights in the Ronald McDonald House in Tampa Bay when their daughter was born premature.
We were willing to stay at a hotel but the head nurse in the ICU insisted we stay at the Ronald McDonald House. It was incredible and it changed my life. We thought it was just for families that couldn’t afford a hotel but it’s more than that. I was part of the volunteer workforce – my job was to clean the hallways and I loved it.
The other really great part about being there was the people we met and the people that worked at the House. There was a little boy who was about 13 who had tourette syndrome. He and I became close through our common interest in football and we ended up playing catch everyday at the university next to the hospital. I think I enjoyed our time throwing the football more than he did. I’ll always remember the big smile on his face. What I didn’t know was that he was an accomplished pianist, a prodigy I think. His dad recently sent me his CD and we still keep in touch. His name is Matt.”
Mike nominated Ronald McDonald House Charities because they changed his life. His fantasy team sits comfortably in second place with a 7-3 record in his division. He’ll make the playoffs and will rely on “Big Ben,” Roddy White, and Adrian Peterson to carry him to the championship. Should he win his league will help him donate $200 to a Ronald McDonald Home in his name.
Please share your “House” story with us and check out our next post as we go inside the first ever Ronald McDonald House with Kelly Hays O’Connor, the Communications Manager at the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House.