Eldon Self and his mom Patricia have traveled from their home in Leland, North Carolina to the Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill nearly 30 times since August 2017. The three-hour car ride has become quite routine for the fourteen-year old — but not as routine as the smiling faces and listening ears that greet him and his mother the second they step through the doors at the House.
“That is our second home,” said Patricia. “We walk in and say ‘we’re home’ because we are there as much as we are at home sometimes.” Eldon has various medical challenges that all trace back to the underlying condition of Baraister-Winter Syndrome, an extremely rare condition only found in about 50 other people.“The House gives us a place to stay, a safe place, a comfortable space.”
Patricia has also utilized the Ronald McDonald Family Room, the House’s hospitality suite at North Carolina Children’s Hospital. Patricia said it gives her a space to take a break and refuel, without having to be far from Eldon. “Sometimes you run into other families and it feels good to have someone understand what you are going through.”
Eldon and his family often participate in the many evening activities at the House, from arts and crafts to holiday celebrations. “It gives you something else to think about that is fun,” she said. “You can feel like you are not dealing with sickness at the moment. It takes your mind off of that. It’s fun to watch Eldon have such a great time.”
In addition to bonding with staff and volunteers at the House, Eldon has also made a priceless lifelong friend in Jake, a fifteen-year-old fellow House guest. “Eldon doesn’t go to school or have anyone his own age to interact with,” Patricia said. “Eldon struck up a conversation with Jake about Star Wars and it went from there. Jake’s number is in Eldon’s phone as ‘my best friend Jake.’ It means a lot to see him have a friend.”
Eldon always looks forward to stopping by the Rach Kids Toy Room, which provides a brand new toy to every child staying at the House, each time they visit. “It’s a big deal to him. It is like he’s going to get a million dollars, he gets so excited,” said Patricia.
“He gets the smallest simplest things and it bring such joy to him. Your whole life is spent in appointments, so things like that make a big difference.”