Macomb family grateful for help from Ronald McDonald House of Detroit

Ronald McDonald House of Detroit relies on donations, volunteers to operate


MACOMB, Mich. – Jonathan and Katrina Williams made a promise to their daughter Ava after she was diagnosed with brain cancer - that they wouldn't go home from the hospital until she could come home with them.

The Macomb couple kept that promise to their youngest daughter thanks in part to the Ronald McDonald House of Detroit.

In November, Ava Williams was admitted to Children's Hospital of Michigan and given an MRI, the results of wish lead to a devastating diagnosis.

"It revealed first one tumor on the brain stem, then another tumor in the front of the brain, and then they realized that there were more tumors, what they call droplets, that had dropped down into her spinal canal," Jonathan Williams said.

Ava has medulloblastoma, a type of brain tumor.

"It was shock and disbelief.  We were not expecting that diagnosis," said Katrina Williams.

The now 3-year-old had to undergo emergency surgery before starting what has become several rounds of chemotherapy.

Since Nov. 3, Ava has spent 86 nights in the hospital.   For the first three days her parents Jonathan and Katrina never slept, never showered, never left her hospital room in the intensive care unit.

"It was one of the hospital staff there that told us about the Ronald McDonald House," said Katrina Williams.

"Having the Ronald McDonald House here gives you the ability to have a shower, get a good nights sleep, rest, get away from, the biggest thing for us, get away from those four walls inside the room and the beeping and the noise and the white coats," said Jonathan Williams.  "Have a little bit of home atmosphere."

The Williams sleep in Ava's room in shifts, taking turns to use the Ronald McDonald House of Detroit to get rest and eat a home-cooked meal.

"Eighty-six days of hospital stays and that means 86 days of basically at the Ronald McDonald house between one of us staying here to get that mental break," Katrina Williams said.  "The mental break and support and to eat a meal. I mean, when you're in the hospital and thrown in that situation you're not thinking about food and you're not thinking about anything but her."

The Ronald McDonald House of Detroit gives the Williams family the opportunity to spend time with their other two daughters Samantha and Olivia.

"To be able to have our daughters here versus an hour away makes a huge difference and impact for them to be able to spend the time for us as well and to see their sister," said Katrina Williams.

Katrina Williams said they consider the Ronald McDonald House their second home right now.  They have also used it to celebrate holidays including Thanksgiving, New Year's Eve and Easter.

"It's helped us tremendously, I mean, I don't think we could ever put it into words," said Jonathan Williams.

The Ronald McDonald House of Detroit recently moved to its new location at 4727 St. Antoine in Midtown.  The new house has 28 guest rooms, a playroom, teen room, community living areas and guest kitchen.  It also has five extended-stay rooms.   It helps about 1,500 families each year.

"They're going through one of the worst times of their life," said Jennifer Litomisky, the executive director of the Ronald McDonald House of Detroit. "You want to have the opportunity to have a home-cooked meal, a nice, soft, comfortable bed, others who are dealing with the same type of situations. That's all really important for our families."

The Williams family is grateful for how the Ronald McDonald House of Detroit has helped them while they focus on caring for Ava.  They also use a Ronald McDonald House when she receives treatment in Ohio.   The family plans to volunteer and donate to the house.  They hope others will too.

The nonprofit relies on donations and volunteers to keep operating.

"Without donations the building won't be here so it doesn't matter $2, $5, $200, $2,000,  whatever the amount, it adds up," said Jonathan Williams.  "It takes a lot to keep this building here and without it, unless you're in this situation you don't realize how lost you'd be without it."

Local 4 is teaming up with the Ronald McDonald House of Detroit for an all-day telethon Monday to help raise money that will help families like the Williams.

People can call in their donations to 313-745-5909 between 6 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.

They can also donate online now at GrowTheHouse.com.