Expanded Ronald McDonald House brings more love, kindness, space for families

Published: Monday, March 31 2014 10:55 p.m. MDT

"It's just been a huge blessing for families going through tough situations who have all those medical bills coming in and then have to get a hotel. It's one more thing for them to have to pay for," Heather Jeppsen said. "To stay here lifts a burden. That's what they do. They make you feel at home. You're with people going through similar situations. … There's a camaraderie there. You can help one another through the tough things and network."

Now 2 and after receiving a transplanted aortic arch, Gavin's prognosis is good. His parents have been told they can treat him as they would a normal child and that he has a 90 percent chance of making it to age 80.

Since their stay, the Jeppsens have become tremendous supporters of the home and its efforts. Caleb Jeppsen found a job with a company that donates to the homes, and the family's four children collect tabs from soda cans to cash in for money to donate as well.

"We will always give back," Heather Jeppsen said. "I just know we will. We just love them. We love the people. … I love it. I think it's amazing what they've done here."

The family may have stayed in a time of uncertainty and stress, but the love and kindness they felt in the home is what stuck with them.

"I have fond memories of this place," Caleb Jeppsen said.

Last year, more than 1,400 families, or 4,000 people, stayed, but another 700 families had to be turned away because there wasn't room to accommodate them. Once the renovated home is complete, it is estimated as many as 2,500 families will be able to stay there and in the new home — the two properties connected by an indoor healing bridge — each year.

The Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Intermountain Area also include family rooms at both Primary Children's Hospital and Ogden Regional Medical Center. Those spaces feature seating areas, a quiet room, stocked kitchen and dining areas, laundry facilities, private showers and four "retreat" rooms for naps or overnight sleeping.

Romano said the organization has raised $10.7 million of its $11 million goal to fund the expansion. They continue to accept donations, have a wish list online that lists the things they still need for home and could always use more volunteers, including for those to bring meals.

They may be simple things — a bed, a bath, some food — but they go a long way.

"It's a very basic human exchange of kindness, but it means everything to the people in that circumstance," Romano said. "We operate in a paradigm of hospitality and kindness, and it's what makes it an authentic home like environment. … It's remarkable that the community would rally to make life just a little bit better for folks going through a really tough time."

Email: emorgan@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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