DETROIT – Twice a year Tom Sherrill-Mix makes the trip from Alpena to Detroit.
He has made the trek twice a year for the past 33 years and always ends up at the same place: the Ronald McDonald House of Detroit.
Sherrill-Mix is the weekend manager volunteer for the house during these visits, spending his time helping families with children who are sick and in the hospital. He and his family do it because they know first-hand how valuable the help can be to these families.
"Our second son, he had incurable liver disease, and we ended up spending probably (a) couple days short of six weeks and realized the importance of the house," Sherrill-Mix said. "It's kind of like a refuge. You can kind of come here and get a few hours rest, you can get a meal, you can get a shower."
His son Shane was born in 1982. His family stayed at the Ronald McDonald House while their son was in the hospital.
"When I stayed here it was, you know, it was really nice to have someone there to talk to," Sherrill-Mix said.
"Unfortunately, Shane ended up dying two days after we got home, but it was still a very emotional thing, but it still was kind of a healing thing knowing that people cared."
Sherrill-Mix, his wife Michele and their family returned to the house the Thanksgiving after Shane's death.
"It helps us also be closer to the spirit of our son and that we realize the importance of the place," Sherrill-Mix said.
For 33 years and counting they have returned every Thanksgiving and Easter to volunteer.
"It's kind of my reality check. When you're home, you have the normal you know irritations of other people or you know you think things are going bad, but when you come here and you see the people really having a hard time you realize 'I got it pretty good at home' and not that that's good but it's kind of kind of a reality check and you kind of really enjoy the good times," Sherrill-Mix said.
As weekend manager, Sherrill-Mix checks families into the house, answers questions but most importantly he listens to them.
"You also have to be here to help people out if they're having a hard time you can sit and listen to them. You can't really do anything for them, but you can kind of sympathize with them and listen to their troubles," said Sherrill-Mix.
Volunteers for the Ronald McDonald House of Detroit are important, and can give a break to employees so they can get a day off.
Irma Hudson is the resident manager and stays at the house with the families. She told Local 4 without volunteers like Sherrill-Mix the house would cease to exist.
"He can relate in a way that another parent can't or another person, that I can't relate," Hudson said. "But Tom being here, being a parent that had a child here, he (has) been through a time that no nobody could ever even imagine that our parents do every other day sometimes."
Sherrill-Mix's wife Michele has passed away, but he has continued the volunteering tradition with his daughter Shannon.
"We just want to show that compassion to other people," Sherrill-Mix said.
"Tom's face should be in the dictionary 'Force to be good' because he is, he really is a wonderful person," Hudson said.
The Ronald McDonald House of Detroit is a place where parents, guardians, siblings and other children can stay while a child is at Children’s Hospital of Michigan. The cost is $10 a night, but no family is every turned away.
The Ronald McDonald House of Detroit is always looking for volunteers. To find out more information or volunteer, click here.