Helping a home away from home

Published 11:11 pm Tuesday, September 21, 2010

When Leigh and Thad Moore needed a home away from home, Ronald McDonald House was a place to lay their heads — without the worry that would take away from their chief concern, their daughter Rebecca Ann.

Rebecca Ann was born with a hemangioma, an internal, blood-filled tumor that reached from her head down to her chest, wrapping around her airway and threatening her ability to breathe.

For months, Rebecca Ann remained hospitalized as doctors treated her condition. Leigh stayed with her constantly, with Thad going back and forth from Mobile or Boston, where she was treated, to their home in Brewton.

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“The first seven months of Rebecca Ann’s life we were in and out of the hospital,” Leigh said. “We never left her. I stayed all day during the day, and Thad or a grandparent stayed with her at night.”

For Leigh, many of the precious few hours she slept happened at Ronald McDonald House, located next to USA Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

“I had somewhere I could go and get a good six-hour sleep,” she said. “There were meals there if we wanted them. It filled such a need for us.”

At the time the Moores needed Ronald McDonald House, the facility only had 12 rooms — and they weren’t always available. Occasionally they received a voucher to stay at a nearby hotel, but it wasn’t the same.

“Ronald McDonald House is nicer than a typical hotel room,” Thad Moore said.

The Moores are glad to see that Ronald McDonald House is expanding — and they are glad to help raise the funds through McCheers, a fundraising event set for Nov. 4. The event seeks to raise the funds for a Brewton room at the house.

“I’ve wanted to do something for a while,” Leigh said. “It filled our needs for a while. It was a place to put my head down at night.”

Ronald McDonald House was a blessing in many ways, the Moores said. At the time of Rebecca Ann’s hospitalization, Leigh had taken a leave of absence, and Thad was just getting started in the appraisal business. “Money was not coming in,” Leigh said.

The ability to pay just $12 a night to use Ronald McDonald House helped. And while they did not get to know the other families who stayed there very well because they did not spend as much time there, the staff knew them by name, Leigh said.

Meals were brought in every night by different volunteer groups, Thad said.

And because people from so many other communities use Ronald McDonald House, fundraisers like the one in Brewton make sense, the Moore said.

“When we’ve been there or passed by there, I always notice an Escambia County tab in the parking lot,” Thad said.