The Cycles of Life

It was the year that Kay Sanders retired that her two-year-old granddaughter, Berkleigh, was diagnosed with stage-4 neuroblastoma. Berkleigh was transferred to a hospital in Virginia, where Kay followed the rest of the family in order to home-school and help care for Berkleigh’s three siblings. She ended up spending 9 months away from her husband and 7 other grandkids in order to lend a helping hand to Berkleigh and her family while she received treatment.

At the midpoint of Berkleigh’s medical care, she was transferred to Duke University Hospital in Durham, NC. It was during that time that Kay was given her first taste of Ronald McDonald House, which is where her son-in-law stayed for 9 weeks. On the weekends, Kay would take the rest of the kids with her to visit, where they would share a two-bedroom suite, and enjoy bonding over meals with other families who were in a similar boat as her family.

“Berkleigh just turned 8 and has been cancer free for 4 years!! We were blessed beyond words by the House and many volunteers!”

Today, Kay is on the other end of the spectrum when it comes to her current involvement with RMHC. Back in Amarillo, she now volunteers at the Ronald McDonald Family Room at NWTHS, blessing families who are facing situations similar to the one she experienced six years ago. The Pampa native’s favorite aspect of volunteering is having the opportunity to visit with all of the moms and dads who come in for a visit, and always looks forward to hearing the lullaby sound that plays nearby whenever a baby is born.

“My favorite memory is playing with a little cancer patient in his wagon while mom grabbed a coffee and snack!! He had the sweetest laugh under his face mask!”

It is during these times of increased isolation and social distancing that Kay has realized how much she misses the many face-to-face interactions that are commonplace during a shift at the Family Room, including getting to catch up with the other volunteers who work the shifts before and after hers.

“I miss TALKING to people the most… parents, siblings, nurses and custodians! “

When the COVID pandemic was in its earliest stages here and social distancing first became the current norm, Kay enjoyed cooking frequently, but had to scale back on that when she realized they were enjoying more calories than they were able to burn off! Now she is focusing much of her energy making clothing for now 8-year-old Berkleigh’s “American Girl” doll. As much as it is up to her, Kay always makes an effort to catch “When Calls the Heart” on the Hallmark Channel each Sunday evening. When it comes to her favorite menu items at McDonald’s, Kay is always in great shape because it happens to be the cookies and coffee…items we just so happen to keep in stock for our families at the Family Room!

Having family in the Armed Forces has given Kay plenty of opportunities to travel the world when grandchildren have been born. She has trekked all the way to England, Japan, and Naples, Italy in order to witness the birth of grandkids!

“Thanks to the Navy I have traveled the world, kinda!!”

Kay is the perfect example of how life often works in cycles. At one point, Kay was served by friendly, smiling faces at a Ronald McDonald House halfway across the country. Today, she is a friendly, smiling face to families in need at the Ronald McDonald House right here in the homeland.