James and April McClintock remember living in the Ronald McDonald house as if it were yesterday.
"This has been such a big part of our lives for 15 years now. To be able to be able to come back and see where our whole family sort of changed direction, it's such an unbelievable thing to come back here," says James McClintock, former Ronald McDonald House client.
Their daughter Morgan was born with a birth defect and later died. Looking back, the McClintock family says this place was a big part of their healing.
"We lived in the Ronald McDonald House for 5 months, with our oldest daughter who was in kindergarten at the time. So it was comforting for her to have a place to come and play and meet other kids, and not be in the hospital all the time," says April McClintock, former Ronald McDonald House client.
The Ronald McDonald House was first established in 1985, with only eight bedrooms.
"Together the Junior League of Austin with our local McDonald's owners, operators and the community came together to make the dream a reality. That way we could have a home-away-from-home for families when their kids were sick and in the hospital, or getting outpatient treatment," says Carolyn Schwarz, chief executive officer, Ronald McDonald's House Charities of Central Texas.
Now there are 30 bedrooms, plus the family rooms inside local hospitals. Over thirty years, more than 15,000 families have been helped.
"When a family is focused on the health of their child, nothing else should matter. So when we can provide the lodging and food, that takes a weight off the families," says Schwarz.
It's been shown that families that stay at a Ronald McDonald House are better able to be advocates for their children because they have a good night's sleep. On Sunday the community celebrated that progress with a birthday cake, crafts and music.
"It has been a long time. I've seen a lot of progression with the house and in the early days it was tough. Today the community has got its arms well-wrapped around the Ronald McDonald House. The volunteers and what we do for the house is special. There are not a whole lot of charities that have what we have," says Denny Meyer, owner and operator, McDonald's.
A "30 Stories for 30 Years" display was also unveiled Sunday, highlighting all those who make up the history of the Ronald McDonald House. That included the daughter that the McClintock family will always hold in their heart. The display will travel throughout Central Texas this year to educate our community on how thousands of families have been comforted and cared for.