Becoming a “Family” for families in need

Our vision is that ALL families who must come to Amarillo for their child’s medical treatment utilize our resources at the Ronald McDonald House. Many people believe we are strictly a service for parents with early babies or families of pediatric cancer warriors, but in all reality we are here for the families of ANY pediatric patient (ages 0-21) who must come to Amarillo for any type of medical care. Though we are always grateful to serve the many families who pass through for just a night or two and need a place to stay, the majority of our families stay for weeks, or even months, while their NICU babies grow stronger. And for most of our young cancer patients, we are able to get to know them quite well, too, as they come to Amarillo frequently over the span of months, or sometimes years, in order to receive care. It’s always bittersweet sending families home with healthy kids…we may be doing back flips and popping confetti in our hearts and minds when we learn of their happy endings, but it’s also equally sad to see them go after having had spent so much time together under the same roof and had the opportunity to form a bond and develop a sense of camaraderie.

These aren’t just the feelings that our staff experiences at the House. It rings true for many of our long-term, dedicated volunteers at the Ronald McDonald Family Room at NWTHS, including our good friend, Virginia Keys. Much like the House, there are definitely families at the hospital who are able to benefit from our services just for a day or two, but it’s the opportunity to get to know so many of the long-term families facing lengthy challenges and uphill medical battles for their kids which keeps Virginia passionate about serving after many, many years. On a lighter note, serving also gives her the perfect “out” from having to focus on dreadful housekeeping projects at her home.

“Volunteering gives me the excuse not to do the things around the house that I put off until tomorrow. Tomorrow has arrived with the ‘all in’ [mentality for sheltering in during COVID].”

Virginia first got involved with RMHC when she learned about the “new” Ronald McDonald Family Room program to launch at Northwest Texas Healthcare System. The Family Room is quickly approaching its 20th birthday this year, and Virginia has been with us for the last 18 of those years, and has more than 1800 hours of service under her belt!

Virginia is a native of Amarillo, but traveling is one of her favorite things! Since the “sheltering in” days began, she has enjoyed spending her time reading, praying, sitting on her porch, and enjoying this beautiful spring weather over some walks in her neighborhood. Even though the Family Room is currently closed as a safety measure, she is still managing to find some “outs” to postpone going through closets and sorting Christmas decorations…which we can agree does NOT sound like a party, not even during quarantine!

And as for the place where Virginia most looks forward to going after our world has returned to operating in full swing?

“CHURCH! I have learned what a privilege that is, that I take for granted.”

Virginia’s favorite McDonald’s dish is the Cinnamelts, which while they have not been served locally in our stores for a number of years, we ARE able to get them to serve our guests at the Family Room, since we just so happen to be on a first name basis with Ronald and all.

We sincerely look forward to when our world sees healthier days again and we are able to open up the Family Room to start serving up some of those coveted Cinnamelts and cookies to our families again.

Our House has been truly blessed by the nearly two decades of service from Virginia…on behalf of all of us AND our families, THANK YOU!