Home is Where the Heart is

April 24th, 2020 | News

Before the birth of her first child Olivia, Melanie wasn’t sure what Ronald McDonald House did for families. She only knew that when Olivia needed additional care from a complication during birth, Melanie wanted to be where her heart was—with Olivia. So, when Olivia was transferred to American Family Children’s Hospital, and Melanie learned that she could stay at the Ronald McDonald House, she was overwhelmed with gratitude. Melanie had a home away from home within easy walking distance of the hospital. Plus, a Ronald McDonald House volunteer driver to shuttle her to the hospital every day with a packed lunch to go.

“My husband Zeb is a farmer,” says Melanie. “Money is always tight, and I couldn’t drive after Olivia was born. We didn’t have to worry about paying for a hotel or trying to find friends and family who could drive me all that way to the hospital and back every day. RMHC made it so all I had to worry about was being with my baby, which was the most important thing. It was a huge blessing.”

Thirteen years later, Olivia is thriving and has three sisters, Tenley, Ashlynn, and Zaelynn. But one person is missing, baby Ashton, Melanie and Zeb’s second child. Ashton died at only 3 months old, but he is forever in their hearts. The whole family has always wanted to give back to RMHC by volunteering and honoring Ashton at the same time. Melanie said, “RMHC really went the extra mile, seeing how hard that day is for us, and making sure we could host the meal that day. Since another group had already claimed dinner, the coordinator suggested brunch.” So, Melanie’s family and friends hosted a brunch at the House on January 11, Ashton’s angel anniversary. It was a beautiful, nourishing spread—Zeb and the girls made the pancakes, Olivia (a budding baker) made chocolate chip cookies, and plenty of other options were available, too.

“The people are just so great, and you can tell they really care about what you are going through. They do everything they can to make you feel like you are at home, to make things easier,” says Melanie. “What RMHC does for people in really difficult times in their lives is amazing.”

By Sondra Retzlaff, Writer