Ronald McDonald House is more than a place to stay for families with sick children. It’s a community.

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Becoming a parent for the first time can feel overwhelming. It’s even more challenging when your child has a health issue.

That’s what happened to Felix and Jennifer Baker earlier this year. Their son, Jamari, was born with only half a heart.

“We didn’t really know what the future looked like, if there would be one at all,” Jennifer Baker said.

Jamari was taken to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham, an hour and 30 minutes from their home in Athens.

“Looking at costs for hotels and not knowing how long our son would be in the hospital kind of made my brain explode a little bit,” Felix Baker recalled.

With worries mounting, the Bakers heard about the Ronald McDonald House. In less than two weeks, they had a place to stay, just minutes from the hospital.

“Emotionally, it was rough,” Felix Baker said. “But the Ronald McDonald House definitely relieved us of some of those other worries.”

The charity’s primary function is to provide a place to stay for the families of sick children. Volunteers also serve dinner each night. And the families have access to programs on grief management and filing taxes, among other opportunities. They also have a chance to interact with other families whose children are sick.

“The most important thing they get when they stay at the Ronald McDonald House is a sense of community—the ability to share their stories with other families going through the same situations,” said Katherine Estes Billmeier, CEO of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama.

The Bakers said that meeting other families was helpful during their stay. And while Jamari’s battle isn’t over yet, the Ronald McDonald House provided them with a sense of security while they navigated a uncertain time.

“It’s day-to-day pretty much with how things are going,” Felix Baker said. “But honestly, as long as he’s smiling and laughing, we’re good.”

Jamari left the hospital briefly in the spring but had to return two weeks later. He remains there, and the Bakers said that his condition has fluctuated, but he has shown improvement. They moved to Birmingham in March following their stay at the Ronald McDonald House.


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