Donations pile up along with the snow at KELOLAND charities, but a long, hot summer has left some of them dry including a place others call home during dark times. Life at the Ronald McDonald House in Sioux Falls hasn't been easy this summer.
“So, usually the summer time being lower numbers, we can make it through those times and make it through to the next holiday. But this time we didn't make it that far,” house operations director Sandy Free said.
Both of the city's Ronald McDonald Houses are running at capacity. Most days, families are on a waiting list; those who get in like Danette Rolph know they are lucky.
“Not only is this like a home, it's like a family,” Danette said. “They celebrate in our celebrations and feel for us when it's not so good.”
Rolph’s eight-year-old son Logen just finished a two-week stay at the Ronald McDonald House. For nine months now, they've made the 400-mile journey from Newell, South Dakota, to Sioux Falls each week for Logan's cancer treatment. He has Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
“There's no place we can take him. This is the closest place we could come to get the treatment he needs,” Danette said.
So Logen and his family have made Sioux Falls' their second home. Most of their stays are here, but they've also been turned away as more families come to Sioux Falls looking for care and depending on hospitality.
“The day that Logen's father came in, I remember him standing in the elevator. He looked down and said, 'It brings a whole new meaning to that McDonald's canister because you never think it can be you,'” Free said.
“We couldn't have done it. Without Ronald McDonald house, there's no way we could have afforded to come and do the treatment that he obviously needs,” Danette said.
The house provides a room for the family. It's also a clean space for children like Logen, who have specific issues when it comes to disease and other bacteria. This place knows how to prepare for patients with medical conditions. Danette says not all hotels do. That's peace of mind for families who have plenty else on their minds.
“A lot of our families that come in are flown in and things like that. So they don't have transportation and rely on cooking in our kitchens and eating the food that's there,” Free said.
Because of the high demand, the kitchen cabinets are barer than usual. And the house itself is feeling the strain.
“I have washers and dryers that need repair because we provide washers and dryers for our families to use and when you have 26 families using them every single day, they're taking a beating this summer,” Free said.
That's why Free wants help. She is hoping for donations of needed goods and services to keep everything running smoothly here, replenishing resources that have run out for families who need them most.
“It's nice to know this place is here. It's just such a blessing,” Danette said.
And this blessing for families is hoping for its own helping hand to keep going.