Jacob and Tai Rutledge found “peace in a tornado” at the Ronald McDonald House at Washington Regional Hospital in Fayetteville. Their baby, Stella, was born six weeks early on Mar. 28 of this year. Tai was discharged the next day, but Stella stayed in the hospital until April 18.
Instead of having to be away from their baby or sleep in her hospital room, they were able to stay on the floor above her in the hospital’s Ronald McDonald House.
“It just made it a lot easier, because it’s very traumatizing.” Tai Rutledge said.
The facility not only provided the Rutledges a place to sleep in close proximity to their baby, but also a washer and dryer, a place to work with equipment such as a copier and scanner, and even dinner every night.
“They (the staff) just made me feel like I was welcomed and that I didn’t need to worry about those things – they had it,” she said. “And everyone’s so kind for no reason other than you need it.”
Rutledge said she is still friends with the staff.
“We’ve made this bond from that experience that I will never forget,” she said.
Rutledge told her story to the 200 golfers at the 13th annual Ronald McDonald House Arkoma fundraiser, “Golf 4 A Cause”, held at Pinnacle Country Club on Monday (Aug. 28). Organizers hoped to raise $130,000 from the event, sponsored by Tyson Foods, McDonald’s and Newlyweds Foods. Local business leaders and suppliers for McDonald’s and Tyson from around the country attended, and 100 local McDonald’s employees volunteered to help with the event.
The fundraiser was supported the charity’s four main programs, the Ronald McDonald House at Washington Regional in Fayetteville, Ronald McDonald Family Rooms at Mercy NWA in Rogers and in Fort Smith, and the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile, a school-based mobile dental clinic which provides dental care to children. These programs serve an area from eastern Oklahoma, south to Mena and Waldron and east to central Arkansas and north to Northwest Arkansas.
With a tagline of “Keeping Families Close,” the mission of the Ronald McDonald House is “to create, find and support programs that improve the health and well-being of children in Western Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma,” according to their website. Lindsay Dixon, development coordinator, said that it costs about $80 per night for each family to stay at the house and so it is important for people to give.
“We hope no one ever needs the services themselves, but will realize just how important it is to have the comforts of home and not have to worry about where you are going to sleep and shower – so you can focus on your family member getting well and better,” Dixon said.
According to their website, the Arkoma Ronald McDonald Houses served 1,900 families from across Arkansas and Oklahoma last year. McDonald’s is a large corporate partner of the Ronald McDonald House, but the charity is a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation which also relies on the support of the community.
The event also included a silent auction and a raffle.
The Red Shoe Shindig in Fort Smith on Oct. 14 and the Red Shoe Soiree in Northwest Arkansas next spring also support the Ronald McDonald House charity.