WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Since 1982, the Ronald McDonald House in South Florida has helped about 30,000 families, but some families are being turned away. Now local McDonald's franchisee is working hard to change that.
10-month-old Zoe loves being in her daddy's arms.
"When we were doing her pediatrician check-up to see where she is percentile wise, we noticed that she wasn't really growing," Nicholas Langlois said. "Her stool began getting fair in color, white."
After lots of tests, Zoe needed a liver transplant.
Her family traveled from the Cayman Islands to Miami for the surgery. The expense of the family staying in a hotel as Zoe was in the hospital was nearing a financial burden.
They were referred to a Ronald McDonald House.
"Words cannot express, it's been a God-send. Originally when we were at Nicklaus Children's, we were bouncing around hotels, and that got so expensive, so fast," Langlois said.
"The Ronald McDonald House is a home away from home, temporary lodging that we provide to parents who have very sick children who need to be treated at local South Florida pediatric hospitals," said Soraya Rivera-Moya, the executive director of Ronald McDonald Charities of South Florida. "We are a 31-bedroom facility that has all of the amenities you could have at your own home."
Parents can stay here whether their child needs surgery, a diagnosis, or a follow-up visit with a doctor.
"The closest Ronald McDonald House here to South Florida will be in Orlando," Rivera-Moya said. "Within the state of Florida, Palm Beach County is number one of the families are being referred here."
More Ronald McDonald Houses are needed.
"Unfortunately, even though we have this 31-bedroom facility, we are turning away families on a daily basis," Rivera-Moya said.
That's where Ricky Wade steps in. He's made it his mission to raise funds for a large Ronald McDonald House with 54 bedrooms.
"I'm currently on the board on the Ronald McDonalds Children's Charities of South Florida," Wade said. "This capital campaign that we have going on for the new house in Miami-Dade County, the average person might say why should we be a part of this. There is a great percentage of families that use the house in Miami because of it's proximity to Miami Children's Hospital or Nicklaus Children's Hospital. It's huge."
Hoping others will join this mission.
"I want to ask everybody who has the ability to donate. It's not how much you donate, just to donate," Wade said. "This capital campaign is very important to many, many families, not only in Palm Beach County, Martin County or St. Lucie County, but families in general that have very sick young children. We have a long journey ahead of us. So the more that join our marathon, the more we will get accomplished."
As the raising of funds continues, Zoe will have follow-up visits the next couple of months. Her dad is grateful for the Ronald McDonald House.
"When I get back home, it's going to be top of mind when I get back home for donations. I'll do whatever fundraising I can," Langlois said.
To donate to the capital campaign for the Ronald McDonald House, click here.
To donate to a GoFundMe account for Zoe, click here.