By Victoria Tropiano, Communications Coordinator, Ronald McDonald House of Greater Chattanooga
More than 25 years ago Jane Kaylor received the chilling news of her 3-year-old daughter Lori’s leukemia. During the next six years of traveling from Chattanooga to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Kaylor often wished for a Ronald McDonald House® “where the kids could play, we could prepare the food they liked, wash our clothes and be with other parents like us.”
Ronald McDonald Houses all over the world provide conveniently located housing for the families of seriously ill or injured children while the child undergoes inpatient or outpatient treatment.
“Typically we were traveling to Memphis every 3 months when Lori was in remission, sometimes weekly when not. Several times we stayed in budget hotels for six weeks at a time,” says Kaylor.
Lori passed away at age 9.
“When it was apparent that she had come to the end of her journey, her last words to me were, ‘I'm not afraid’,” Kaylor says.
About a year after Lori’s death, the owner of a local McDonald’s® restaurant franchise called Kaylor, to ask whether she would be interested in helping determine if Chattanooga needed a Ronald McDonald House.
“My answer was a resounding yes because I already knew the need,” Kaylor says. Initially, she believed she would contribute by raising money and gathering volunteers.
Instead she became the organization’s leader, serving as President and CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities® (RMHC®) of Greater Chattanooga for 25 years.
RMHC of Greater Chattanooga opened in November 1990 as a 14-bedroom facility. Today it houses up to 600 families each year and has grown to 26 bedrooms with private bathrooms, a kitchen where volunteers prepare dinner for families every night, a playroom, teen lounge, library, workout and laundry facilities and more.
Despite her busy routine running the House, Kaylor will put any project on hold to comfort a family, as she well knows many of the struggles they face
“When Lori was sick, I was torn between focusing on her and caring for my son, who was 3 months old when she was diagnosed,” Kaylor says. “All our families have personal struggles and are torn between their commitments. We hope our services lessen those challenges.”
About 70 percent of families the Chattanooga House hosts hail from the Cleveland area and 60 percent from the state of Tennessee. But families have also traveled from much further away.
Many of these families come to Chattanooga’s Erlanger Hospital for top-notch oncology and craniofacial treatments – Chattanooga boasts one of the top craniofacial doctors in America, Dr. Larry Sargent.
Chattanooga’s Ronald McDonald House recently hosted the Webster family after their 18-month old, Brynna, pulled a moving dolly on top of her head during the family’s relocation to Sparta, Tenn. Brynna faced a traumatic head injury including a skull fracture, low blood pressure and a heart echo. During the family’s 25-night stay at the House this past summer, Brynna responded well to intensive care and has since made nearly a full recovery.
“We were blown away with the resources here to support our mental and emotional well-being,” says Brynna’s father Jody. “Being at the Ronald McDonald House has allowed us to appreciate the little things. That’s the silver lining.”
To find out more about RMHC® of Greater Chattanooga or to get involved, visit www.rmhchattanooga.com.