New Ronald McDonald House is being built in St. Petersburg
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05/01/09 Andrea Lypka
WMNF Drive-Time News Thursday

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Yvonne Smith


photo by Andrea Lypka

Yvonne Smith from Port Charlotte has been living at Ronald McDonald house in Tampa to be at the bedside of her ailing daughter, Laurie.

“I didn’t think that I would ever need it, and it has become a home for me,” she said. Ronald McDonald House Charities of Tampa Bay houses about 2,000 families per year whose children are being treated in Tampa Bay area hospitals.

Smith, a mother of three - 19-year-old Larnell, 16-year old Laurie and 15-year- old Liah - has been living in this house since Jan. 27. Laurie Smith, an A student, came home from Andrews University in Michigan for Christmas break last year. She complained about headaches. When the pain persisted and it was followed by nausea, the doctors did a CT scan on her. On Jan. 27, the Smiths were rushed to All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg. Waiting to hear about the condition of her daughter were the longest hours ever for Smith. Laurie was diagnosed with brain tumor.

Smith is a registered nurse who works in intensive care. Now she takes her daughter every day to the hospital for treatment. She understands how Laurie is doing from the look on her face and her gestures. This organization became a lifeline for her. The lodging costs her $10 a day. “If we were to stay at a hotel, I could not afford the expenses. The Ronald McDonald House has been a blessing,” she said.

After Laurie finishes the radiation and chemo therapy, she will recover, her mother said. Until then Yvonne Smith hopes and prays. She hopes that every major hospital will have a facility built for the parents who can’t leave their child’s bedside.

Alison Barrick, the Public Relations and Development Coordinator at the Tampa Bay Ronald McDonald House Charities, said that even with the two existing houses near All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, the demand for rooms is rising.

“Even with the two houses we had to turn away 300 families last year,” she said.

The new Ronald McDonald facility in All Children’s Hospital Medical Annex will open in 2010 if the Ronald McDonald raises the necessary funds.

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Tampa Bay was nominated as a finalist for Nonprofit of the Year with the Tampa Bay Business Journal. The organization has housed about 35,000 families over 29 years whose children are being treated in the area hospitals. The addition of a third facility in St. Petersburg’s All Children’s Hospital will make this organization one of the largest Ronald McDonald Houses in the country serving one hospital.

The organization also provides 46 college scholarships yearly for children with disadvantaged backgrounds. The McDonald Care Mobile Van provides free medical and dental service for the students in Title One Schools in Pasco and Hillsborough counties who come from low-income families. The organization’s biggest fundraiser, the Storybook Ball - Lasso the Moon will be held May 16th at the A La Carte Event Pavilion in Tampa.

For more information, visit RMHCTampabay.com.

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