DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - The Ronald McDonald House in Dallas believes no family should have to deal with their child's medical crisis alone. And when the winter storms wreaked havoc on the house, those same families the house serves, stepped up to help staff cope in their time of crisis.
For Karla Mena and her daughter, Larissa, the Ronald McDonald House Dallas provides hope and the comforts of home, far from home.
"I am so happy to be here and blessed to be here," Mena says.
They have traveled from Honduras to Dallas multiple times for multiple surgeries for Larissa who was born with hip dysplasia. Each surgery so extensive it keeps them away from home months at a time.
"We couldn't do this if we didn't have a place like this," Mena says.
During her treatments, Larissa has been in casts, sometimes from her waist all the way down to her ankles, but the house still gives them a reason to smile.
"[The Staff] they were playing with her and making her feel so good that when we were here, she told me, 'Mom, these are the best times of my life," Mena describes.
"Because she had fun and she forgot all about the cast."
But the Ronald McDonald House that provides a temporary home for so many families and children battling serious injuries or illnesses, faced their own battle a few weeks ago when a round of severe winter weather struck North Texas.
"We really thought we were going to dodge a bullet because we had electricity the entire time," Jill Cumnock, the CEO of the Ronald McDonald House Dallas describes.
But like so many North Texans, the winter storms caused their pipes to freeze.
"We had two pipes in our fire suppression system burst," Cumnock says. "So, it essentially flooded the entire commonplace of our first floor, which included both our commercial kitchen and our family kitchen."
The staff worked quickly to clear out the 17 families staying there and got them to a dry and warm location, but not before those same families, pitched in to help mitigate the damage.
"All the families said, 'We are going to help' and all the families were there helping to push out the water," Mena said.
"Watching these families step in and help us push the water out of the house because they think of this as their home was probably the most heartwarming experience I have had since I've been at the Ronald McDonald house," Cumnock says.
While the families stayed at a nearby hotel, the house still made sure they had three meals a day.
"I can't imagine having a seriously ill or injured child and here you are focused on them being in the hospital, and then you've got COVID on top of that, then we get this winter storm, then we get the damage at the place they are staying," Cumnock says. "I mean that is a lot of stress."
"But [these families] they just take it a day at a time and realize what really matters is the health of my child, but this is my home, and we are going to pitch in and we are going to help, and we are going to make it better."
Right now, the Ronald McDonald House Dallas does not know how much the repairs will cost, but say the damage is extensive.
"It's amazing how much water comes out of those fire suppression systems -- which it has to in order to put out a fire," Cumnock says. "But that water just gets soaked up in the walls and it travels so quickly."
One of the biggest needs they are facing while their kitchens are out of commission due to damage, is monetary donations to help offset the cost of catering meals three times a day to families.
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