It Takes a Village

Ronald McDonald House offers Comfort

Nothing weakens a parent more than having a sick child. The illness alone will stress the family; add to that long hospital stays far away from home and it may seem like an unbearable situation. That is where the Ronald McDonald House comes into the picture. It is a home away from home for families of ill children who live more than 25 miles from the hospital.
The Ronald McDonald House in Roanoke, Virginia, has been that proverbial port in the storm for families with critically ill children. On average, the organization serves 700 families a year at the Roanoke house.

“To stay at the house, we have a priority system. First priority is an oncology patient, second is in-patient, if the child is in the hospital for surgery or premature babies,” said Anna Semonco executive director of Ronald McDonald House of Roanoke. “Those families often end up staying seven months while their babies get stronger. Another admittance to the house would be for someone who lives in Tazewell, Virginia, whose child has a procedure at 6 am; they can come the night before and stay so they don’t have to get that child out of bed early.”

Local business Raises Money and Awareness

The plight of these families has touched the hearts of Jim McKelvey and his administrative assistant Judy Hodges. The McKelvey Companies is sponsoring a benefit gala for Ronald McDonald House. Judy and her husband Ward, of Wirtz, know from experience how soul wrenching it can be to have a premature baby. Thirty-six years ago, their son was born 15 weeks premature at a hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Cory only weighed only 700 grams and was 11 inches long. His lungs were underdeveloped, and he spent the first four months of his life in the hospital.

“It takes every piece of your heart and your soul to get that child better,” said Judy Hodges. “You have nothing left. Then when you have a home like the Ronald McDonald house there’s hope, there’s food, there’s comfort. In 2004, we moved to the Roanoke area and the Ronald McDonald House, due to Cory’s premature connection, became our charity of choice.”

Cory tragically died in November 2016, in a house fire. Since then the Hodges have dedicated a bench on the Ronald McDonald House grounds in his memory and continue to honor him by working on fundraisers for the charity such as the May 19 gala at The Moneta Community Center.

local business

Courtesy of Judy Hodges

“One hundred percent of all proceeds are going to the Ronald McDonald House in Roanoke,” said Hodges. “Jim and Kathy McKelvey are donating the use of their building as well as covering the cost of the dinner and sponsoring the event. Homestead Creamery is donating the infamous homemade ice cream for the desert. Witt Sink of Burnt Chimney Auction is donating his service for this event. Chris Bechtler is donating his DJ talents. Tim Ernandes of WSLK is helping as MC. Susie Barta of “Southern Roots” is coordinating the theme and decor of “A night of Southern Comfort.”
The tickets are $50 per person. You can pick those up at the McKelvey Companies offices at 400 Scruggs Road, Suite 100 in Moneta. They are continuing to take donations for the silent auction and Ronald McDonald House. Fundraisers such as this are important because it cost $1700 a day to operate the House in Roanoke. Contributions from McDonalds only amount to about 4%.

“That is a misconception that we are fully funded by McDonalds,” explained Semonco. “McDonalds is a great organization that not only supports us, but they have a whole scale for good with a lot of organizations. We are charity of choice in that they serve on our board, they offer space in their locations for our change collection boxes, but that is customer money, and their financial support varies from year to year and it’s spreading a little thinner as time goes by.”

A Slice of Hope with your Pie

In addition to a place to stay Ronald McDonald House offers meals, laundry facilities and a shuttle service to and from the hospital. There is also a room inside the hospital where any parent of a child being treated in the hospital can find a snack, cup of coffee, or a peaceful place to rest.

One Thanksgiving Cory and his family volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House in Roanoke serving dinner to the families.

“Cory served the parents of a couple with a 26-week premature baby,” remembered Hodges. “He shared his story and pointed to himself and said, ‘this is what you have to look forward to.’ Their expression changed to a smile of HOPE. This is what the Ronald McDonald House is all about and why we decided to honor Cory’s memory at the House with his dedication ‘Never give up Hope’.”
Click here to learn more about Ronald McDonald House of Southwest Virginia
Originally published in The Laker Weeky.

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