KIDS HELPING KIDS…TO SUPPORT RMHSNJ
Snowfall Ball Committee
It’s not everyday that you see 6th, 7th & 8th grade students coming together for a common mission. The students of Maple Shade collected pantry items to fill the shelves at Ronald McDonald House and raised more than $2,800 to help sick children staying at the House.
Volunteers Make our House Special!
Meet an Amazing Young Man!Luis Chiclana, 12 of Puerto Rico, a lover of basketball, eyes up the hoop as he shoots baskets outside of the Ronald McDonald House in Camden. Luis was born without a tiba and fibia and is staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Camden with his parents while undergoing treatment, and will soon receive a prosthetic leg. Luis and parents will be going back to Puerto Rico later this month. Luis dreams of challenging his idol Michael Jordan to a game. Courier Post Carly Q. Romalino
(Photo: Chris LaChall/Staff Photographer)
Luis was born without his lower left leg. At birth, his parents counted his perfect 10 little fingers and 10 little toes. But his cute little baby foot grew from where his left knee would have been.
At 1 year old, Luis — an active child, Joana said — was fitted for his first prosthetic limb. The little foot fit into the device. At 2, Joana and her husband, Angel Chiclana, made the agonizing decision to amputate the little foot. Removing it would “improve his quality of life,” Angel explained.
Joana still gets teary-eyed at the memory. The measure, while heartbreaking, allowed doctors to more effectively create a base on his leg for a prosthesis.
Angel still believes he made the right choice, particularly when he sees how quickly his now-12-year-old son gets around a basketball court with one leg. He’s even more nimble with the prosthesis.
At home in Puerto Rico, Luis said he’s one of the best basketball players among his friends.
On a typical day, he goes to school, plays basketball at recess, returns to class and looks forward to playing again in gym class. He does his homework as fast as possible so he can go out and play basketball after school.
Luis feels “very able on the court,” he said through the interpreter.
“When he sees himself get the ball through the hoop, he feels excited,” Mixter-Guzman translated.
Just a month after his latest surgery at Shriners Hospital for Children in Philadelphia, he’s on the court at the Ronald McDonald House in downtown Camden. Police sirens bellow in the background. Traffic noise on Martin Luther King Boulevard doesn’t distract him.
He moves from point to point on the court, either rolling his wheelchair or hopping, shooting baskets and trying to pick up his own rebounds without his dad’s help.
Luis and his parents have logged more than 300 days at the Ronald McDonald House of Southern New Jersey in the past 10 years, traveling from Puerto Rico to Camden multiple times a year for varying spans of time.
This trip, they’ll stay at the house for three months. Luis underwent surgery in September to insert pins in his left leg to control its growth. In the weeks since, doctors have fit him for a prosthetic leg.
The family watched helplessly from Camden as Hurricane Maria tore through their home island weeks after Luis’ surgery. His two older sisters, ages 24 and 29, rode out the storm in their homes in Puerto Rico. “That day we did not sleep,” Joana explained. The trio huddled together in front of TVs in Ronald McDonald House common areas in the middle of the night, horrified by damage reports.
“Roofs were flying, and trees,” Angel said. It was unlike any storm they’d ever experienced, he explained.
“We were very fearful Puerto Rico was devastated where we lived. There was a lot of destruction around us,” Joana said. The family lives just outside San Juan.
Angel was unable to contact his daughters for more than a week. In the weeks since the storm, phone service remains spotty. If his daughters do have cell service, it’s only for a handful of minutes at a time.
“Because we are here, we are able to see what was happening to the whole island. We’re more aware,” Joana said.
Six weeks after the storm, 72 percent of the island remains without power. Clean drinking water remains a concern. When Luis’ prosthetic leg is complete by the end of November, he’ll return home to unknown circumstances. His family knows the supplies that are available are very expensive, including food and gasoline.
Shriners Hospital sends representatives to Puerto Rico twice a year to visit with growing kids like Luis who need adjustments to their prostheses. The hospital canceled its autumn mission to the island, said Joana, who worries the spring trip also won’t happen.
“We’re trying to remain positive,” she said. “Our life at some point will go back to normal.”
Luis worried about his basketball net at home. “That was the first thing he asked about,” Joana said. “We don’t know.”
Playing basketball is important to Luis. It helps him feel like any other kid.
In every shot on the Camden parking lot court, Luis channels his idol Michael Jordan.
“(Luis) challenges anybody in this house,” Mixter-Guzman said.
Once, she found him on the court shooting baskets in front of a cheering section of younger kids at the house who were lined up on the curb. He assembled the cheer squad himself, Mixter-Guzman laughed. He’s challenged other kids, and their parents.
“He has no mercy,” Mixter-Guzman said.
Luis’ newest prosthesis, like each customized before this one, will sport a nod to Jordan, his jersey number or Air Jordan logo. Jordan, said Luis, “seems to do the impossible.”
Little Boy Battling Eye Cancer
March 23, 2017 7:46 AM
Three-year-old Asher Wallace is an energetic little boy.
“Look, there’s a little dump trump and a big dump truck. I need to load the big dump truck,” he said.
Playing with dad, and snuggling with mom, he’s happy to meet new people, and game for anything here at the Ronald McDonald House in Camden.
His parents love watching their son play, but watching him one day they felt something was wrong.
“We noticed that his eye had begun to turn in,” said Mark Wallace, Asher’s father.
It happened around Christmas in 2015.
“His left eye would look at you, his right eye would kind of look toward his nose,” he said.
The diagnosis by doctors in Alabama revealed retino-blastoma, a malignant tumor of the eye that affects young children.
“We were kind of shell-shocked,” said Ashley Wallace, Asher’s mother.
Their doctor recommended treatment at Wills Eye Institute and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
“He said they’re the best in the world,” said Mark Wallace.
Ashley Wallace added, “All that went through my mind is we got to get there, we got to get this started.”
The family traveled back and forth nearly every month last year for Asher’s treatments, always knowing they had a welcome play to stay.
“The McDonald House was unbelievable,” said Mark Wallace.
During that time, Asher had one eye removed.
His dad took video the first day Asher saw his new prosthetic eye in the mirror.
“You’ll get used to it,” Mark Wallace said in the video.
And through it all, Mark and Ashley Wallace found a community inside Ronald McDonald House where every parent’s wish is for their child to get better.
“We share our stories and we root for each other,” said Ashley Wallace.
And for Asher, facing every treatment, staying here made all the difference.
“He gets so apprehensive about hospitals and things, but he’s always OK with this coming to the McDonald House,” Asher’s mother said. “This place has definitely made an impression on him, he loves it.”
But their trips to Ronald McDonald House are coming to an end because on this recent stay, doctors said Asher’s MRI is clear.
It’s news that every Ronald McDonald family hopes to hear.
“Can I have hugs and sugars,” Ashley Wallace asked Asher. “That’s what I’m talking about!”
March 23, 2017
Ronald McDonald House Offers Sanctuary for Parents of Hospitalized Children
By Kimberly Kerr, SNJ Today Reporter
When a child is in need of prolonged care at a hospital, the Ronald McDonald House provides the family with a special room for comfort.
When a child is in need of prolonged care at a hospital, the Ronald McDonald House provides the family with a special room for comfort.
The Ronald McDonald House Family Room helped an Egg Harbor Township family during its time of need when Kent Patrick Wenzel was born on November 4th, 2016, at just 23 weeks gestation.
“He was one pound, three ounces and he was 11 and half inches long,” said Joyanna Wenzel, mother of baby Kent. “It was kind of overwhelming to see him for the first time. He was red and tiny, and his eyes were still fused shut—his eyes weren’t open yet.”
He had a long journey in Cooper Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), and his mom didn’t have to miss even one of his 101 days spent there. During his stay in the NICU, Wenzel would walk right across the street to the Ronald McDonald House of Southern New Jersey to stay overnight. Thanks to the room, she could stay right by Kent’s side through all hours of the day.
“I feel like I didn’t miss out on anything, which is a big part,” said Wenzel. “I hear that a lot of babies do much better when their parents are with them, and I think that’s why Kent has such a good outcome.”
I mean there’s some hard things that you see in the NICU, and this is kind of a place I could just come and think a little bit and not hear monitors going off.
“What makes medicine really work is when you have a family, and support, and a nurturing environment,” said Dr. Michael Goodman, Chairman of Pediatrics at Cooper Hospital and a board member at the Ronald McDonald House of Southern New Jersey. “So, the neonatal intensive care units become almost a family away from home. The nurses just love and care and cherish the babies and the time they spend with them; they feel like they’re their own. But, to have a parent with the nurse, a parent with the physician team, it just allows that child to do very well.”
Eleven South Jersey hospitals have such rooms, including Cooper Hospital.
“That enables moms like Joy to be able to stay in the hospital and then get something to eat, to read a book, to relax, to regain the energy that they need to be able to care for their children,” said Tina Fiorentino, Director of Development for the Ronald McDonald House of Southern New Jersey.
During her time at the Cooper Hospital, Wenzel would take a break from the NICU in the Ronald McDonald House Family Room.
“I mean there’s some hard things that you see in the NICU, and this is kind of a place I could just come and think a little bit and not hear monitors going off,” said Wenzel.
Now at seven pounds, six ounces, and 19 inches long, Kent is now home. At almost five-months-old, he’s with his mom who is very happy that she could be there for every milestone thus far, and hopeful for all the ones yet to come.
February 16, 2017
Ronald McDonald House Thanks Community for Support in Contest
After coming up a little short the first time, the Ronald McDonald House of Southern New Jersey was excited to announce that they are the winners of a national contest.
Members of the organization unveiled the news via social media with a video saying:
“Roses are red, violets are blue, we won $10,000 because of you!”
The staff along with the families currently staying at the house, posted the video to their Facebook page thanking the thousands of people who helped vote them into victory for January’s KIND Challenge.
The Camden-based house will receive $10,000 for getting the most votes for their kind act for serving as a home away from home for families with sick children from all over the country getting medical care in the area. They plan on using the winnings to help with the costs of their transportation fund.
Ronald McDonald House gets support from Roma Bank Foundation
Ronald McDonald House of Southern New Jersey president and executive director Ann Thomas (left) and development director Tina Fiorentino receive a check from Maple Shade Investors Bank branch manager Carol-Anne Peacock, from the Roma Community Bank Foundation for $5,475.
Families are never turned away from Ronald McDonald House Southern New Jersey, even if they can’t pay the required $15 a night toward their stay.
Many families with sick children are stretched to their financial limits, so in 2015, family donations to the House averaged $3.23 per night. That is where Roma Bank’s Community Foundation and GIVE 365 stepped in, by providing a donation of $5,475.
RMHSNJ applied for the grant from the bank foundation, which supports nonprofit organizations that enrich the diverse communities served by Investors Bank. Roma Bank became part of Investors Bank in December 2013.
As a GIVE 365 funder, the Roma Community Bank Foundation provides for basic house utilities such as water, gas and electric, regular maintenance to ensure a safe and suitable home environment, and household supplies for areas such as the kitchen and laundry.
According to president and executive director Ann Thomas, 75 percent of the families who stayed at RMHSNJ in 2015 qualified as low-to-moderate-income and were unable to pay for a hotel room or an apartment while their child received medical treatment.
In reality, according to RMHSNJ development director Tina Fiorentino, it costs $86 per night for a family to stay in the house. “Each night, the house hosts up to 25 families. The GIVE 365 donors provide us with considerable assistance,” she said.
“Parents with children (with) serious illnesses or traumatic injuries have enough stress and fear to deal with, so the services provided by the Ronald McDonald House in Camden are an amazing blessing,” said Carol-Anne Peacock, Maple Shade branch manager and Investors Bank assistant vice president.
Investors Bank is a full-service community bank, an FDIC member and Equal Housing Lender, that has been serving customers since 1926. The Investors Foundation supports nonprofit organizations that enrich the quality of life in the communities the bank serves. To date, the foundation has dispensed more than $15 million to support initiatives ranging from community and civic improvements to the fight against diseases.
The Ronald McDonald House in Camden is one of 362 houses in 42 countries that offers hope, help and home to critically ill children and their families.
Our House is decorated with Elves in Red and White Socks, our Christmas Tree stands tall and stretches up to the ceiling. The children and their parents are excited, anticipating the arrival of Christmas Day. On December 1st, we celebrated Share A Night with our families and friends, the Jersey Sound choir showcased their beautiful voices and Santa arrived to greet all the children. We counted down: three, two, one, to light up our Christmas Tree and House with festival holiday lights.
For more information about upcoming fundraisers and events, Click Here