Home is extra special this time of year. For some families one Sioux Falls home makes all the difference in the world.
“My Christmas wish is that all my kids could go home is actually my biggest wish, but that's not going to happen,” Ronald McDonald House Operations Director Sandy Free said.
The Ronald McDonald House is ending its own record-breaking year. At a time when things tend to slow down, there's no sign of that this year, as more families than ever are looking for a warm place to stay while their children are being treated at nearby hospitals.
“You don't plan on a medical challenge or an illness. It's a crisis and it happens immediately. And you go into crisis mode,” Director of Donor Relations Cami Veire said.
This organization takes the worry away, providing everything families need, including the support to just keep going. And it depends on community support to do that all year long.
“With the support that we've gotten collectively, we've made a pretty good haul. So it's exciting,” McDonald’s manager Jackie Ball said, as she unpacked boxes of donated goods.
Just days before Christmas, a group from all Sioux Falls Area McDonalds brought donated items from their customer drive. It includes toys for the kids who have to be away from their beds on Christmas. There are also pantry items and even everyday things to keep the house going.
“All the things that you need in your house, we need in our house,” Ball said.
“That was a wonderful surprise when they came and told us they would like to do that,” Free said.
Free says the organization is abundantly blessed at Christmas. It's a sharp difference from just a few months ago when the house was hard up for everything from volunteers to repairs to supplies, and more. Christmas came early when the community stepped up in a big way.
“It doesn't matter if its summer time, it doesn't matter if it's Christmas Day, they're still in those needs and so it's important to take care of them,” Free said.
The two Sioux Falls houses can provide shelter for 26 families. They've been on a waiting list for month as more and more children come to Sioux Falls for critical care services.
“If this wasn't here they would probably be sleeping in the hospital in a waiting room or in their car,” Veire said.
So even at a time when blessing abound for this house, Veire says that's why the work continues.
“The value of a night's stay is $50, so what we're seeing happen is a lot of families instead of naming gifts or drawing names will take the money they'd give each other and adopt a family,” Veire said.
“Almost the entire month of December if you look at our calendar we were booked. But if you look at our calendar come January through March it starts to get quiet again,” Free said.
So the message is don't stop giving to this charity or another one once you pack up the Christmas tree, because the work continues year round. And even the smallest thing brings light to others.
The increased demand on the house is also creating a unique need: interpreters, as more and more guests speak other languages. Click here to more information on how to help.