I have thought. And prayed. And thought some more about how to really honor Link and serve him on his special days: his birthday (in a week - November 7th) and his angelversary (March 26th). What could I do that would honor his life? That would give back a portion of the love that he gave us and the service that was given to us while he was here? What could we do that would be meaningful and unique to his life journey?
For his birthday, I felt that focusing on the Ronald McDonald House would be a great way to honor him. So - November 7th is offically Link's birthday and Ronald McDonald give-back day! (I also have something SO exciting planned for his angelversary, too- definitely looking forward to sharing that!), but I thought focusing on the Ronald McDonald House would be neat since that's where we were for a lot of his first weeks of life.
In our two weeks in the St. George NICU, we just boarded at the hospital. It was fine. We didn't get to sleep in the same bed. There was no fridge or tub. It was a regular hospital room, but we were just thankful to be close to our son. Also, thankfully, Jason's brother's family was down there and they fed us as well & were so good to us. Then, in Philadelphia, we were in Link's room for the first several days. Jason slept on the couch & I slept on a cot they brought in for us. Those nights were rough to say the least. Between the beeping of the machines, the nurses coming in constantly, and just my constant worry about Link, sleep was pretty nonexistent. And trying to work with the doctors, be there for Link, communicate and coordinate with my parents for the girls in SLC, was added drain. Not to mention my body was still recovering from giving birth. I needed sleep. We had gotten our name on the list for the Ronald McDonald House before we came out, but we had to check every day. And every day for about 5 days, we would call. Ask. Plead. By the 5th day, I told Jason I just couldn't do it anymore. We either needed to get in or find a hotel. I know Heavenly Father heard our pleas and poured down mercy that day because finally the answer was YES! Which is a true miracle because the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia is a HUGE hospital and there are SO many families there from out of town.
Coming to the Ronald McDonald house was a humbling experience. We actually stayed in the VERY first Ronald McDonald House - on Chestnut Street. It's a gorgeous old building with mahogany ceilings, staircases, etc. Just beautiful. It's been added onto for the rooms that we stay in. Tempurpedic had actually donated new mattresses for all the beds recently. So - going from sleeping on a hospital bed cot to sleeping on a Tempurpedic mattress... well, let's just say it felt heavenly. The kitchen area was awesome. There was a huge kitchen. Like 4 dishwashers, sinks, fridges, etc. A local milk company came every day and fully stocked one of the fridges with milk - 1%, 2%, whole, chocolate. Sometimes a group brought in lunches. But every night (EVERY NIGHT!) a different group of angels came in to feed this group of stressed-out, grieving, downtrodden, worrying parents and families. And they weren't just basic, boring meals - they were FULL out delicious, sometimes restaurant-quality meals, including yummy desserts! And there were ALWAYS leftovers. Seriously, even though we walked up to 6 miles a day coming & going from the Ronald McDonald House to the hospital, I think we still gained weight with all that wonderful food. So - not only did we not have to pay $100+/night for a hotel room (for THREE weeks!), we didn't have to pay for breakfast or dinner. SUCH a blessing!!! There were also such cute, sweet areas to play in for the young children.
On top of all of this, there were free hats & mittens available (and we needed them! Philly in December is COLD!), a man came in every week to play the piano, people we coming in constantly to do crafts with the kids or put on a little play. It all helped to lighten the mood in the house & just bring in LOVE. I really felt such unconditional love and service while we were there.
The people we met there were amazing. Just simply amazing. Their stories would amaze you and humble you. Some of them had been there a few hours. One family we got to know had been there with their 2 little girls for six months. Some had a child with cancer. A brain tumor. Serious heart conditions. Spina Bifida. Many of them were back for the umpteenth time. Their courage and optimism inspired me. We were a long way from home, but we were not from another country. We had to face major surgery with our newborn, but we weren't being told that his chances of survival were less than 50%.
We were there at Christmastime which was another amazing experience. We got to go to the "Share the Night" event. It was catered with delicious food and wonderful entertainment. Ronald McDonald himself came and performed for the kids. Oh - how I wished I could "beam" the girls there for the night. It was so neat and so special. At the end, they served hot chocolate outside and lit the outside lights. It was beautiful & so neat to be a part of that - to look around and see these struggling families. To also look around and know many of the people at this event were sponsors and donors and their generosity made the house possible. They also had a Santa's workshop there. Seriously people. It was AMAZING. Toys, toys, more toys stuffed into this little room. It was almost impossible to walk around in there. They let us choose 2 gifts for each of our children. It brought tears to my eyes. It was awesome. It was amazing. It was true, Christlike love.
On the day we left that house, I had my precious baby boy in his carseat carrier beside me as we waited for Jason to flag down the cab. I wept. We were the recipient of so much service - so much love. Being in that place changed me forever. There is SO much pain, anguish, and hurt in the world. And I can't take it all away. But I can make a difference.
So - for Link's birthday, we are honoring my son's life through serving the house that served us while he was in Philadelphia. No - we're not going to fly back there (not sure I'm ready for that even if we had the funds), but there are SO many ways to help. THANK YOU in advance. Can I ask you an additional favor if you do end up helping out? If you feel comfortable, will you send me an e-mail & let me know? (email@example.com). And if you actually go in to help, PLEASE take a picture & send it to me! I am going to bring all these to his grave and tell him all about the service that was done in his name. If you want to participate in honoring my son on the day of his birth, here are some great ideas:
-Donate Money! Probably the easiest way to help. Even just a few dollars helps so much!! We are going to donate directly to the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House and the Ronald McDonald House in Salt Lake City. Both of them have online donation pages. No amount is too small! This year we don't have the funds, but I hope in the near future, we'll be able to donate enough to get a brick with his name at the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House. I would love that!
-Sign up for Amazon Smile! Are you like me & order things from Amazon at least once a month? This is SO easy to help! Just click the link & type in Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House (I don't think Salt Lake's is on there, but they do have Primary Children's which is awesome, too) & WHALA! A portion of your purchase will go to them!
What is AmazonSmile?AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support your favorite charitable organization every time you shop, at no cost to you. When you shop at smile.amazon.com, you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to your favorite charitable organization. You can choose from nearly one million organizations to support.
-Save your soda pop tabs & bring them in! This helps them raise money! So easy... here's what to do:
Collect tabs off any aluminum beverage can and
save them in a wide mouth container. When
your container is full the tabs can be dropped off
at the Ronald McDonald House on 935 E. South
Temple. The House is open everyday of the year
24/7. There is a drop off container inside the
house at the front desk. Donation can be made
-Go to McDonald's! This is easy peasy and your kids will love you. Go there and bring money to let them plop into the Ronald McDonald container at the front. They will feel like they are making a difference. We are going to head there on Link's birthday :)
-Bring a meal to feed the families at your local Ronald McDonald House! I mentioned above how amazing and wonderful it was not to have to go and find food every day - and how much money it saved us. We live in Cedar City, UT and there is no "Ronald McDonald" house here. However, there is the "Jubilee House" which is very similar. We are working with them to bring a meal to the house next week.
-Donate Items! Call your local Ronald McDonald house & see what they might need. The Salt Lake City Ronald McDonald house is doing an expansion and has a list of donation items they need. Here locally at the Jubilee Home, they have other needs. If you are here locally & would like to help gather items, please send me a message!
-Christmas Toys! It's coming up and as I mentioned above, it was an amazing, amazing experience to see all those toys donated & feel like I could pick something out for not only Link, but each of the girls and not have to stress about Christmas shopping so much. What a blessing!! Being in that situation during the holidays is really difficult. It takes a lot to find joy while you are watching your child suffer, so this is a simple way to truly help someone feel the true spirit of Christmas!
-Volunteer! This one is probably the most time-consuming, but also the most rewarding and helpful to families in these situations. And there's SO many ways to help! My family in Salt Lake has arranged to go to the Ronald McDonald House on Link's birthday and help with the children - singing songs, doing crafts, etc. If you would like to join them, please e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org) Here are some other ongoing volunteer needs listed on the Salt Lake Ronald McDonald site:
- FRONT DESK VOLUNTEER
Answer the telephone, greet guests, give tours, help with office, & house projects. Must be 18 years old and able to make a 6-month commitment to a once a week 3-hour shift. Shift: Occur every day of the week between from 9 am– 9 pm.
- HOUSE HELPER
Want to help where the need is greatest? Help us organize storage areas or clean our kitchen, laundry room and common areas. Must be 16 years of age, unless accompanied by an adult. Shift: Two to three hour shifts available everyday between 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.
- EVENTS VOLUNTEER
Do you have experience with organizing large fundraisers and have a lot of time to give? From set up to take down and everything in between volunteers are needed to assist with various fundraising events throughout the year. Must be 18 years of age. Schedule varies throughout the year. Call for availability.
- MAINTENANCE VOLUNTEER
Are you a retired mechanical technician or do you have previous experience with general maintenance projects? Periodically help is needed with small & odd jobs around the House. Schedule on call, weekdays 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
- SHUTTLE DRIVER
Help our guest get to and from the hospital. All shuttle drivers must have a clean driving record and be over 21 years of age. 30 minute shifts available two or three times a week from 9-9:30 a.m., 12:15-12:45 p.m. 6:30-6:45 p.m . Shifts may change to better fit the need. Please call for availability. For insurance reasons a one year commitment is required.
THANK YOU so very much. I know his birthday is going to be a roller coaster of emotions, but I know that paying forward the kindness & generosity we received after Link was born will help so much in the healing process and make me feel like his death wasn't meaningless. And knowing you are helping us to remember Link and honor him will warm my heart so very much!!