When Charlotte and Lily were born prematurely with medical issues, Mom was overwhelmed by the fear of leaving her children to fight for their lives alone. Terrified and overwhelmed by the possibilities for her kids’ health and the means to pursue treatment, the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Charleston stepped in and made it possible for her to stand strongly by their sides and fight.
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Charleston has been a home away from home since 1983. Because of its efforts, families can stay together and near their sick loved ones while they undergo medical treatment at the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital.
“RMHC Charleston is the reason I was able to be by their side every single day and night,” said Jennifer Risseeuw. Her daughters were born at 25 weeks, weighing only 1 pound and a few ounces each. The Risseeuw family stayed at RMHC Charleston, close to their girls for eight months while they received treatment for medical issues.
Last year, RMHC Charleston was home to hundreds of families that had traveled to support their children’s medical needs. Even during the height of the pandemic, RMHC Charleston kept its doors open.
Thanks to the generosity of donors, RMHC Charleston is able to alleviate families from the burden of lodging, meals and travel costs that accompany seeking medical treatment. The housing that the organization offers helps parents and children lead normal lives – as normal as possible, that is.
“RMHC Charleston provided a place to sleep and rest and also made sure we had absolutely everything we needed, including meals, snacks, laundry and even a house dog, Gardy,” said Risseeuw.
RMHC Charleston and its supporting donors are committed to a mission to create environments and programs that give families the best chance of success in caring for their children. They believe that when a child is in a time of greatest need, communities and families can combine to create solutions and help change a child’s life forever.
“Shocked, terrified and helpless, I remember the overwhelming feeling of desperation for my girls to live and to fight the countless odds they had stacked against them and their chance of survival,” said Risseeuw after she survived an emergency C-section. “I couldn’t stay with them, but I needed to be as close to the hospital as possible. RMHC Charleston is the reason I was able to be by their side every single day and night.”
None of this work would be possible without the donations and volunteer hours of the Charleston community. All the funds raised stay local and are used to support the families that travel far from home to bring their children to lifesaving treatments.
To make an immediate impact, supporters can make a direct donation online, start a fundraiser on social media or choose RMHC Charleston as their “charity of choice” at smile.amazon.com. They also can give the gift of food by sponsoring a meal or signing up to deliver a meal or by purchasing a wish list item for RMHC Charleston and its residents. McDonald’s customers always have the opportunity to give to an RMHC family by dropping in some spare change or rounding up their total purchase.
Today, Charlotte and Lily, healthy 4-year-olds, just started preschool. They love to sing and dance ballet. RMHC’s help was invaluable, according to Risseeuw: “There are no words to clearly describe how much of a saving grace the house was to me.”
For more ways to support RMHC Charleston and the families it supports, visit www.rmhcharleston.org.
By Pamela Jouan