Grayling family helps kick off fundraiser for Ronald McDonald Houses
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
Erin and Scott Stratton knew that their son Mac had a heart condition months before he was born.
And after 20 days, Mac’s tiny heart crashed while he was at an appointment at the DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids.
Following Mac’s birth on July 18, his parents stayed at the Ronald McDonald House in Grand Rapids. They then called the Ronald McDonald House home for three weeks following Mac’s open heart surgery.
As part of the #Get Your Hat On campaign, McDonalds restaurants in Michigan are providing hats for a $5 donation to support the Ronald McDonald Houses in Michigan as well as stickers for $1.
“Since 1974, (Ronald McDonald House Charities have) created programs that strengthen families during difficult times. RMHC provides vital resources and compassionate care to children and their families being served by leading hospitals worldwide,” according to www.rmhc.org. “Core RMHC programs – Ronald McDonald Houses, Ronald McDonald Family Rooms, and Ronald McDonald Care Mobiles – provide access to health care and enable family-centered care. RMHC has helped lessen the burden for more than 5.5 million families in 2016.”
The Strattons were part of the kickoff for the #Get Your Hat On campaign at the Grayling McDonalds on Friday, Dec. 8. The campaign runs while supplies of the hats and stickers last.
Scott noted the food, bedding, toiletries, and towels are provided to families at the Ronald McDonald House.
“It was just a real blessing to be able to go down there and have a place to stay, and not to have to worry about anything being three hours from home,” Scott said.
Back in April, Mac was diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot, a congenital heart disorder, through use of echocardiograms and detailed ultrasounds at the Munson Medical Center in Traverse City. Pediatric surgeons come to the hospital once a month for appointments with families whose unborn children are known to have illnesses.
The test was repeated when Mac was born to determine the extent of the problem.
Doctors wanted to wait for Mac to live a half of a year before doing surgery, but it was done on an emergency basis at his first check-up appointment.
“The plan was to wait six months, but he changed his mind and wanted it right away,” Scott said.
Mac remained in the hospital for three weeks, which is when the Ronald McDonald House became a crucial resource for his parents.
“That’s where having the Ronald McDonald House was nice,” Erin said. “That was one less thing to worry about – where we were going to stay or how we were going to pay for food.”
Ronald McDonald House volunteers even provide transportation for families, to get to and from the hospital and medical appointments. The Strattons did not need to utilize those services.
“They’ve got everything available to take you to and from and to just keep your life going as normal as possible in a situation like that,” Scott said.
Famed snowboarder Shaun White was born with the same heart condition, but went on to achieve gold medals and glory as part of the U.S. Olympic Team. More recently, ABC’s late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel’s son, Billy, was also born with the same condition. Kimmel has shared his family’s emotional story with his viewers and became involved in the health care debate over the federal government’s potential of not funding health care for children with preexisting conditions.
There is a 50/50 chance Mac will need a valve replacement when he becomes a teenager or later in life.
“It could also just fix itself,” Erin said.
The Strattons have hosted foreign exchange students in the past and have considered adoption. They vow that Mac will be their only shot at becoming biological parents.
“He will be the only after this,” Scott said. “We’re too old to deal with this again.”
Erin works at Walgreens in Grayling, and Scott is the manager at Family Video in Gaylord. They moved to Grayling from the Mt. Pleasant area 13 years ago, and plan to call the community home as Mac grows up.
“We’ve changed jobs, but we love everything about Grayling, the outdoors and all of that,” Scott said.
The couple was elated to be part of the #Get Your Hat On campaign.
“It feels great to be part of this program and to help out,” Scott said. “It’s just such a great program, which helps some people that don’t even know if they’re ever going to need it. We never thought we would be in this situation where we would have to stay at a Ronald McDonald House, but we’ve always donated change and helped.”
There are five Ronald McDonald Houses in Michigan, located in Grand Rapids, Lansing, Detroit, and two in Ann Arbor. Each year, volunteers support 3,500 families with sick children.
Several years ago, Cheryl Carr, the manager for the Grayling McDonalds, was among a group of volunteers which helped build and staff the first Ronald McDonald House in Ann Arbor. The house was affiliated with children being cared for at the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital the University of Michigan Medical Center.
“It was huge,” Carr said regarding the efforts to build, staff, and stock the first home in Ann Arbor.
Carr was tickled to be part of the #Get Your Hat On campaign to support the houses, which provide comfort and solutions for families in their time of need.
“It’s wonderful,” Carr said. “I think it opens people’s eyes to Ronald McDonald Houses, not just in the area, but out of the area as well. Their donations, whether they be big or small, make a huge difference in the Ronald McDonald Houses and Children’s Charities.”