A Shelter from the Storm

We often share stories with you about the many people we encounter on a day-to-day basis who have been impacted by RMHC, and how that often includes many of our own local, actively involved supporters who are directly serving our House and families right here in Amarillo. But we also hear stories from families who would have tremendously benefited from the Ronald McDonald House, but ultimately experienced their season of challenges before we even existed. While so many are able to see firsthand the importance of a place families can turn to as a home away from home while they are far away from their own homes with sick kids, many have felt the importance when a resource like ours was simply out of reach when needed the most.

This was definitely the case for Marilyn Brown. A number of years ago, Marilyn spent extended time down in Houston at Texas Children’s Hospital, while her son was hospitalized for leukemia. She unfortunately experienced a tragedy no parent should have to know, with the loss of her son. There was no Ronald McDonald House in Houston at that time, so she had no other option but to accrue the costly expense of paying to stay in hotels near the hospital to be close to her child. When she left Texas Children’s, she was asked to write a letter to the RMHC global charity outlining the costs she accrued while staying, with hopes of building a House to one day help serve families in Houston. In 1990, the first Ronald McDonald House was first built in Houston, seven years after we first opened our doors here in Amarillo. Today, there are four Houses operating in Houston among countless other programs to help families, including a House built inside the very hospital Marilyn spent countless hours.

As someone who experienced firsthand the need for a shelter from these specific storms, Marilyn has become a strong advocate for the Ronald McDonald House, and is going on her 6th year as a volunteer at our Family Room!

“I really love volunteering in the Family Room because the families are ao appreciative.”

Her favorite experience in the Family Room so far has been having a unique opportunity to bond over sports with the father of child in the hospital.

” I generally volunteer during the 6:00pm-9:00pm shift and one time had a dad come in and watch OU College Football with me.  I also love to help other volunteers and try to substitute when I can.”

Marilyn truly enjoys connecting with the families who stop by the Family Room, where “appreciative” is the one word she uses to best describe them.

” I really miss the families that are at the hospital – they often come by and tell me how they could not have made it without our laundry services and the snacks to get them by.”

Marilyn is one of those individuals who isn’t from Texas, but got here as fast as she could. Born in Woodward, Oklahoma, she has resided in the Lone Star State since 1969. At her 5-year high school reunion she was awarded the title of “most changed.”

During this time of increased social distancing and staying at home, Marilyn has enjoyed reading at Medi-Park where she can keep an eye on the construction progress of our new House as it is being built! She has also enjoyed checking out materials from the public library, focusing on her work with the prison ministry facilitated through her church, and has on more than one occasion watched several of her favorite recent movies: “The Help”, “I Can Only Imagine”, and “The Overcomer”. As for the top two destinations Marilyn most looks forward to visiting once the pandemic passes? That would have to be traveling to Branson and returning to volunteer at the Family Room, of course!

Even though, RMHC was not an option for Marilyn when she needed us the most, she has focused so much of her energy on giving back and blessing others…many of whom are facing battles today similar to the ones she experienced herself, years ago.

“I appreciate all the other volunteers that have become friends and will be excited when we are able to return to volunteer. It is just a joy to be helpful and give back to others!”