Have you ever wondered how your donation to a charity would make a difference? What if I told you that it does and it could hit close to home?

In 2017, the Ronald McDonald Houses provided lodging, support, and hope to 30 Pulaski County families to include 352 nights stay, total. The family of Owen of Ft. Leonard Wood, and the family of Azuriyah of St. Robert, were among the many families who were supported.

Meet Owen Segoviano. Owen is a NICU survivor and his family is beyond grateful for the donations made to the Ronald McDonald Houses.

The Segoviano family said, “Our son, Owen, was born at 26 weeks via emergency C-section due to multiple issues during pregnancy. As if being first time parents isn’t scary enough, we now had a 1 lb. 10 oz., 13-inch-long baby boy. We were terrified, lost, and had no idea how we could even start getting through this terribly hard time. We had no idea where we would stay or how we would afford it.”

Owen’s parents continued, “Then a nurse mentioned the Ronald McDonald House. It was our light through the storm and gave us somewhere to feel “at home.” Everyone there was sensitive to what we were going through, and it was so nice to know we were close to our baby boy. The Ronald McDonald House was our home for three months, but to our family, for a lifetime.”

Meet Azuriyah Jones. Azuriyah just turned one and he, too, was a NICU survivor. His mom shared, “At just over 38 weeks, I started throwing up blood and the doctor decided to induce me. After 24 hours of labor, I had a temperature of 103, which I then passed on to my baby, Azuriyah. When it was time to push Azuriyah’s heart rate started to drop and he got stuck in the birth canal. Once they were able to get him out, he was rushed to the NICU and spent over 2 weeks there, where he was diagnosed with neonatal encephalopathy. The Ronald McDonald House was a blessing for my family. We live an hour and 45 minutes away and didn't want to leave the hospital.”

She added,  “I also was pumping milk to store for him, and staying at the house gave me a place to store the milk until I went back to the NICU. We were able to stay together as a family, which was very important during this stressful time.”

She continued, “Thanks to the Ronald McDonald House, our 3 year-old had somewhere to get away from the hospital, and they took care of us at a time when we were unable to think about anything other than our baby. The financial burden of staying in a motel would have been a strain on us, along with the time my husband was not working in order to be with us at the hospital. We will forever be grateful to the Ronald McDonald House and its staff.”

The Ronald McDonald House Charities say they believe that home is where families are together. The houses provide overnight stays for families traveling afar to be near their ill or injured child.

Other programs include daytime use of the houses, home cooked meals through the Family Dinner Program, a Family Fund for emergency expenses, and laundry centers and transportation at no cost. Most importantly, the Ronald McDonald Houses try to provide hope, comfort, and support during unforeseen hardships. Over 12,400 families have benefited from the Ronald McDonald House Charities, including 362 Pulaski County families, since its opening in 1988.

Now through the end of February, the Waynesville McDonalds restaurant will participate in the Share a Heart campaign. Every dollar donated will go directly to support the Ronald McDonald Houses of the Ozarks. Ask for the red, pink, or gold heart to present your donation and sign your name for a cause that could help a local family.

Each heart will come with an official entry form for the March 2018 drawing.  The winner of the drawing will receive a $1,000 gift card from Great Southern Bank.

The Share a Heart campaign raised over $120,000 for Springfield’s Ronald McDonalds Houses in 2017. Share a heart this month, if you would like to help a family like Owen’s.