Each night, Christy and Jason Roschen were able to put their newborn Macy to bed. Like any ‘first’ tradition, the newness made it precious and special to do these tasks that eventually become an everyday routine – putting little toes into pink pajamas, nuzzling soft cheeks while reading a bedtime story, and kissing their tiny Macy before she was laid down in her bed.
But when they laid Macy down to go to sleep, it was in a hospital’s crib instead of the one they had ready for her at home, nearly an hour away. And despite home being so far away, every night they were able to be so close to her at bedtime, because they made a new home right across the street from Florida Hospital for Children at the Ronald McDonald House.
Each evening they’d leave the hospital and be warmly welcomed by people who understood what they were going through, be it other parents in the same situation or the people who worked at the House.
“It was always with open arms,” Christy said. “First words out of their mouths when they saw you was, ‘How is Macy?’”
There are two Ronald McDonald Houses in the Central Florida area where families whose children are being treated in nearby hospitals can stay for free. Both houses have served more than 20,000 families since opening in 1996, where they have their own private room and bathroom with common areas to have meals, relax and let their other children play. Stays average 11 days, but can go up to a year in some cases. The alternative for most families before the homes were built were to not be able to see their child each day, make long commutes, or sleep on cots or chairs, or even in cars.
The fourth annual Ice Cream Social takes place April 6 from at the Winter Park Civic Center from 1 to 5 p.m. The event is a fundraiser to support the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Florida, which benefits the Ronald McDonald Houses, where families whose children are being treated in nearby hospitals can stay for free. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $7, or in advance for $5 by contacting Linda Mayfield at 407-677-1552. For more information about the Ronald McDonald House and learn more about setting up a stay, visit ronaldmcdonaldhouseorlando.org
This weekend, the public has a chance to help the organization continue to serve more families in need by attending the fourth annual Ice Cream Social on April 6 at the Winter Park Civic Center. At the Social, you can try ice cream frozen by liquid nitrogen, create your own sundaes and floats, and kids can have fun getting their faces painted or watching a ventriloquist perform.
Organizers say it’s an important cause because a parent’s touch can make all the difference in the comfort of a sick child.
“We know for a fact that children heal better, and in many cases faster, if their families are close by,” said Linda Mayfield, chairman for the event.
That’s what the nurses kept telling the Roschens.
“Your touch is the only thing that’s going to make her better,” Christy said.
Macy was born with intestinal issues, and had to stay in the hospital for almost five months after having 14 inches of her small intestine removed – a serious procedure. During that time, rather than making the hour trek from Cocoa to the hospital every day or sleeping in a chair in their daughter’s room, Christy and Jason were able to stay at the Ronald McDonald House, which is within walking distance.
So despite their fear of bumping the scars Macy had accumulated already as a newborn, and the worry of grazing the IV in her head, Macy’s mom and dad cuddled and kissed their daughter. And they wouldn’t have been able to do that nearly as much without the Ronald McDonald House.
And while it took a bit to adjust, the Roschens made both their and Macy’s rooms a home, decorating for each holiday they spent there – a tinsel heart sparkled on Macy’s window for Valentine’s Day, and during Christmastime a 2-foot tree weighed down with as many lights as would fit glowed in the Roschens’ room.
“It felt like home, you made it home,” Jason said.
So did the people there. Christy’s best friend is a mom she met at the Ronald McDonald House. Orlando has become a second home for the family, who chose to keep Macy’s Orlando doctor despite the long drive from Cocoa. And the trips are also a chance to visit the nurses who became family at Florida Hospital and the employees at the Ronald McDonald House.
And now, a healthy 2-year-old Macy goes with her parents to visit the Ronald McDonald House they made a home for her days and milestones.