Christie Schultz has a bright smile and happy demeanor. When she talks about her family and her time spent at the Ronald McDonald House in Detroit, her eyes light up. She’s been staying at the Ronald McDonald House with her family for the last 20 years, sometimes for a few nights, and sometimes for a few weeks.
Christie’s daughter, Kyla, has been in and out of Children’s Hospital of Michigan for doctors appointments and surgeries for most of her life. The Schultz family, including Christie’s husband, Mike, and their son, Mike Jr., drive from over an hour away so Kyla can see the cardiologists at Children’s Hospital of Michigan, who are among the best in the world.
When they came to Detroit for Kyla’s first emergency visit to the hospital nearly 20 years ago, they didn’t know about the Ronald McDonald House.
“The first time we came here I slept on folding chairs next to Kyla’s bed for seven nights. I hadn’t eaten a real meal that whole time. I was so busy taking care of her, I was exhausting myself. We learned about the house and my husband and I checked-in in time for dinner. I ate dinner, took a shower, and slept for twelve hours straight, I was so tired.
“When you’re the parent of a sick kid, you’re so discombobulated. You’re always in this mindset of “go, go go”. You’re so busy worrying about your kid, you forget to eat and sleep yourself. But the minute you walk into the House and smell the food the volunteers have made, and you’re greeted by staff who remind you take care of yourself, too, well, it just feels like home.”
Christie gets emotional talking about the benefits the House has given her and her family, especially the opportunity to be right at Kyla’s side while she receives treatment.
“The travel and medical costs alone are a burden on our family’s budget”, said Christie, “even now that we live closer than Lansing, having a place to stay for only ten dollars a night is a gift. We have enough to worry about with Kyla’s health, to have to worry about where we were going to stay and how we’re going to pay for it would be unthinkable. And we’re so close. The parking and the shuttle relieve another financial burden. I know if Kyla calls me, even in the middle of the night, I can be by her side in less than 10 minutes”.
But the Ronald McDonald House of Detroit is so much more than just convenient. Christie says the real magic of the House come from the people in it.
“The volunteers here will remind you to take care of yourself. They’re the voice of reason that make you take a break, telling you it’s ok to relax and take a breather and that you can’t be at the hospital 24/7. They’ll ask me if I’ve eaten today and if they can get something for me, they’ll ask if I slept last night. As a parent of a sick kid, you need that reminder or you burn yourself out. The first time we stayed here we had left our house so quickly we didn’t grab any toiletries. We told the front desk staff that and they said ‘don’t worry, we’ve got you’. They had everything we needed to take care of ourselves.
Everyone here cares, and we know it, and we can feel it. The volunteers and staff are always here and always willing to talk, asking how we are, and it just takes the pressure off. Here we can meet other parents, even if they aren’t going through the exact same thing, they get it. We can talk to and mentally associate with someone who’s going through the same thing”.
Christie is grateful for everyone at Ronald McDonald House Charities Detroit. From the volunteers who support residents and make home-cooked meals, to the staff running things behind the scenes and the donors who make it all possible, the people are what make the Ronald McDonald House a welcoming comfortable place for parents during a tough time.