Having been in the hospital for “15 long days,” Madison Whitlow said she couldn’t wait to arrive at the Ronald McDonald House.
“I wanted to be back out there and feel like I had a life again. The Ronald McDonald House allowed me to do that,” she said, adding that she’s a very “active and independent” person.
Whitlow was the guest speaker for the Coldwell Banker Charitable Foundation’s fifth annual Hausefest, which was held at the Acorn Theater in Three Oaks, Michigan, Saturday, Oct. 29. The fundraiser featured a costume contest, a silent auction and food from local restaurants such as David’s Delicatessen & Coffee, Song Asian Cuisine, Bentwood Tavern, New Buffalo Bill’s, Skip’s, Villa Nova, Jackie’s and Green Spirit Farms and live entertainment from the Rebecca Anne Band. Organized by Tracy and Kurt Hauseman of Coldwell Banker New Buffalo, the event benefits Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana.
A resident of Three Oaks, Michigan, Whitlow is currently an 18-year-old softball player at Lake Michigan College. She was 16 years old when she received a liver transplant while at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. She spent two weeks at the Ronald McDonald House.
Before her arrival, Whitlow said she harbored some preconceived notions about the House: That it would contain “McDonald’s logos everywhere” and that it would serve “McDonald’s food.” She also thought it was only for children who had cancer. She later learned that it is also a place for seriously injured or sick children like herself who could be near a hospital “while living in a comfortable home.” It’s also for families of patients who live far away but need to remain close to their hospitalized child.
“I could be close to the hospital without being in the hospital and I could have my own life – I couldn’t go home, because I was too sick, but couldn’t stay in the hospital forever,” she said.
For Whitlow and her family, Ronald McDonald House proved to be a true “home away from home.” She got to stay in her own room with a television, desk and bathroom. She could participate in a variety of activities offered there, from visiting its library to checking out movies and games. She could also enjoy home cooked meals and frequently have guests from back home. She could even occasionally leave the House, exploring the big city to her “heart’s content.”
Whitlow said the best part of her stay was witnessing how much the staff accommodated their patients’ every “wants and needs.”
“It made my recovery from my liver transplant faster, easier – it helped me to be healthier and happier,” Whitlow said, adding that she was “amazed” at all the effort the staff puts forth to making everyone’s stays there as “comfortable as possible.”
According to Tracy, since its inception, HauseFest has raised $28,000. She said the Ronald McDonald House charges $10 for a family to stay in a room per night and through their fundraiser, they have provided 2800 nights for families at the House.