The Ronald McDonald House (RMH) family reaches far and wide. Filled with children and families who have stayed at the House, volunteers, staff members, donors, board members, and so many more. It is these people who come together to fill our House with hope and joy. They make the House a home.
Many of the volunteers who make up our family do so to give back to the community and meet new people. Emily Stoll and her family have been loyal volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill for two and a half years. Their connection to the House is a special one.
Emily and her husband Bob have been married for nearly 20 years, and they have two children: Mason (age 15), and Hailey (age 12). When Mason was 10 years old, the Stoll family began a journey that no parents can ever prepare for.
“In 2017, our lives completely changed when our son became severely ill,” said Emily. “What we initially thought was a stomach bug turned out to be shiga-toxin producing e.coli., which poisoned his body and nearly killed him. After spending six months at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Mason was moved to A.I. DuPont in Wilmington, DE for physical therapy and dialysis.”
This is when the Stoll family’s RMH journey began. “The Wilmington Ronald McDonald House was within walking distance of the hospital, which gave us a chance for our family of four to be reunited and spend more time together during the weekends. The volunteers at RMH were incredibly kind, and my daughter (age eight at the time) loved that she was able to pick out toys from the RMH donation room to play with in the hospital and entertain her brother. Hailey still loves to tell the story of how she got to watch TV until 10:30 one night while her Daddy was snoring, and she didn’t have to go to bed. It was so nice to have a place to get restful sleep and relax and know that we were only minutes apart from each other.”
Fast forward four yearsand the Stoll family now lives in Chapel Hill. Emily, Bob, Mason, and Hailey enjoy watching movies, playing games and sports, reading, and going on hikes and walks. While COVID-19 has changed much of their daily routine, they have enjoyed getting to spend extra time together as a family. They even found ways to volunteer at RMH!
“Before COVID, I was a House Operations Volunteer setting up rooms, restocking closets, doing laundry and generally helping out wherever I could,” said Emily. “Since my son still has some healthy issues, I am unable to volunteer at the House until our family is fully vaccinated, but we were able to help put together luminary kits this winter. We set up an assembly line in the family room while we watched movies together. Hailey counted bags, Mason put in the little cups, Bob put in candles, and I stuffed in the papers and stapled the bags closed. By the end, the kids were disappointed we couldn’t do more because we had really gotten a system worked out.”
The Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill is immensely grateful to have such great support from the Stoll family–even from afar! Emily says that her favorite thing about Ronald McDonald Houses is that it feels comfortable right when you walk in the door. “It feels like a ‘home-away-from-home,’ where the staff and volunteers care and really help the families out. My absolute favorite thing about the Chapel Hill RMH is the garden in the middle of the complex. When you have a child in the hospital, the only fresh air you get is the walk from the hospital to your car and back. At the House, families can sit in rocking chairs and admire the gardens or use the playground to the side of the gardens. Nature has been proven to lift our sprits, help healing, and give a general sense of calmness. The House is beautiful during the entire year and provides a small respite from the reality of having a family member in the hospital.”
The Stolls have a special place within the Ronald McDonald House family. Their journey from utilizing RMH services to giving back to other families going through similar situations is truly admirable. Emily says that she would like for people to know that the staff and volunteers want to help your family. “If you are hungry or tired, there is a beautiful Family Room in the hospital where you can pick up a snack or rest for a bit. The House is available with two (stocked!) kitchens, snacks, rooms with their own bathrooms, places for the siblings to play or watch TV, and plenty of help around to get you whatever you need.”
“Volunteering at the House is easy and fun,” said Emily. “There are all kinds of jobs from welcoming new families at the front desk, to stocking shelves, or folding laundry. I’ve met a lot of generous, kind people who work there or have stayed at the House. Give the House a call if there is something you would like to offer or have time to volunteer.”
The House is so grateful to the Stoll family for their commitment to serving other RMH families, and we look forward to having them back in the House soon!