Thank You for the Memories

July 22nd, 2020

In September of 2011, Ian was having trouble with everyday things, like tying his shoes. He was tired often and weak. Eventually, local doctors referred him to the specialists at American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison for the underlying diagnosis, which took some time.

Jan, Ian’s mother, knew of the Ronald McDonald House but thought it was only for more critical care young patients and their families. So initially, she drove Ian to and from the hospital, a grueling round trip, normally a six-hour trip, often extended because of Ian’s need to move frequently. Until one of Ian’s doctors referred Jan to the House.

Ian has a rare, genetic muscle disease—he is the only one out of over 65,000 people tested that has this gene variant. He understands it is serious—when his muscles tire, they give out, and of course, the heart is a muscle. But overall, Ian is doing well. He sometimes has feelings of concern about it, but he never stops being cheerful and kind to everyone. Staying at the Ronald McDonald House has only helped with that positive perspective.

“The House has been such a blessing,” says Jan. “Because Ian is autistic, we thought being at the House might be overly stimulating, but he adjusted quickly. He loves talking to everyone and knows them all by name. That has always given him a sense of belonging, just like home.”

Some of Ian’s great memories at the House are:

  • His favorite room is the video game room because he LOVES to play video games.
  • He and Jan always planned to arrive when Bella and Sully, the therapy dogs, were due to arrive.
  • For a pumpkin carving event one Halloween, the friendly chaos was making Ian anxious. Until Ronald McDonald himself invited Ian to carve a pumpkin with him, just the two of them.
  • Another year, he came the day after his birthday and thought the birthday decorations in his room were left over, but no, they were just for Ian.
  • Ian’s appointments the year of the grand re-opening were scheduled the week before the event. So, he was really excited to be able to watch when the House live-streamed the event.
  • Ian and Jan have enjoyed a tradition of walking to Dairy Queen once during each stay.

Ian graduated from high school this year. Like all 2020 graduates, he has had quite an experience. Ian’s plans eventually involve a possible transfer to UW Madison where he also wants to volunteer at the House.

“I have watched this young man grow up over the last decade.  He was just a little guy when I first met him, and now he’s a head taller than me!  Ian has one of the most loving, gentle souls I have ever had the privilege of knowing. Every time he and his mom come to stay, it’s like having family drop in to visit,” said Executive Director Kevin Huddleston.