Earlier this month, the Walk for Kids event in Fontana drew participants from across the region to help raise funds in support of the Inland Empire Ronald McDonald House. When a child needs life-saving treatment, the local Ronald McDonald House brings families together to offer support and hope. Just as it did for Sebastian Lopez, for example. Sebastian’s family lives in Victorville and when he was born with congenital heart disease his treatment required seven surgeries and he was living with a tracheotomy—all before his second birthday. His parents, Jesus and Veronica, and brother, Matthew, spent three months in the Inland Empire Ronald McDonald House in Loma Linda so they could be together and by his side. Sebastian was sent home on hospice, but the family didn’t lose hope. “They have a strong faith and loved him and before they knew it, they were coming back for another surgery and having the trach removed,” Executive Director Karen Hooper said. “From a medical standpoint, children heal faster when their parents are near. A kiss, a hug, skin-to-skin contact or reading a story to a newborn infant can help them heal.” Although the Inland Empire Ronald McDonald House serves the Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital as it primary facility, the organization supports all area hospitals where children receive treatment for life-threatening illnesses for parents who may live as far away as Coachella or Hesperia—such distances make it difficult for many to stay nearby. Parents who cannot afford a hotel find themselves sleeping at the hospital and in their cars, neglecting their own health. This also makes it more difficult to spend time with healthy siblings and keep their family together. At the Ronald McDonald House, families can stay together for free while their child is being treated. The recently remodeled Ronald McDonald facility boasts 54 rooms, a kitchen, a large laundry facility and common areas for families to gather. There are also support services and activities, which include healthy siblings. Family support services interns meet with families to listen to their challenges and assess their needs. There are also fun clubs, music and art therapy, yoga, and movie nights on the back patio. “We provide everything that we can think of,” Hooper said. “We have a library, sanctuary, foosball table, PlayStation and this all releases the stress on the family. Parents wonder ‘How do I keep my family connected and together?’ And the answer is the Ronald McDonald House.” Having this support during treatment can have a tremendous impact, Hooper said. Today, Sebastian is 8 years old. Fifty percent of the organization’s $1.8 million budget is raised by four signature events each year. A large percent of its budget is also supported by grantors, including funds through the Harns Family Donor Advised Fund at The Community Foundation and individual donations. To learn more about the Ronald McDonald’s House and/or to make a donation visit http://www.rmhcsc.org/inlndempire.