Ronald McDonald House helps families feel home away from home

Christopher and Taylor Ballard enjoy their strolls with their son Quentin, but they are missing his identical twin brother Dante.

"We went for one of my wife's checkups and they found a hole in my son Dante's diaphragm, which is the muscle that goes across your chest," said Christopher.

"It's called congenital diaphragmatic hernia, or CDH for short," explained Taylor.

The couple lives in Orlando, but came for medical treatment at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg.

"We don't know how long our stay is going to be and how long we're going to be here," added Taylor.

It was too expensive to stay at a hotel. They found out about the Ronald McDonald House and they are glad they did.

"It's been wonderful. The staff has been unbelievably kind and through some of the hardest time with our sons," said Christopher. "They've just been always there for us, making sure we have everything we need, always, always there for us."

The facility provides free meals and accommodations for out-of-town families whose children have long hospital stays.

"Our goal is to provide a home away from home for families, and they're going through the most challenging times of their life, which is the fact of having a sick child," said Joseph Citro, director of development for RMHC Tampa Bay. "And so we house them, provide them with meals and different support services."

They help more than 2,000 families a year. That's why they are having the Give the Gift of Togetherness campaign to help raise money to support the families at Ronald McDonald Houses.  

"To focus and care for all those other family needs. That way, the families can focus on matters most their child that's in the hospital," said Citro.

It’s a focus that Taylor is glad they are making.

"They always say hi, they ask you how you are. They ask how my sons are doing. It's been amazing."  

Ronald McDonald House has assisted families from more than 37 states and 22 countries. If you would like to help out, you can learn more at