Ronald McDonald House reopens after Jan. flood

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — For parents like James and Tiffany Leonard, the Ronald McDonald House of Western Michigan is a comforting home away from home.

At just 5 months old, their daughter Lilianna has had a rough go of it.  

“When she was first born, she started having seizures where she would blink hard and her head would jerk back,” James Leonard said.

As doctors at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids treat Lilliana, the Leonards, who live more than an hour away in Vicksburg, have had a lot of support from the Ronald McDonald House.

That’s despite the flood that closed down the house on Cedar Street off of Fuller Avenue NE in late January. A water pipe that feeds the sprinkler system burst, the result of ice buildup caused by frigid temperatures.

“Water’s just pouring out everywhere, from the light fixtures, the openings. Water’s just pouring everywhere. Just unbelievable,” Marcie Lewis, president and CEO of the Ronald McDonald House of Western Michigan, recalled.

It was also unlivable. The organization moved all the families it was hosting to hotels. When the Leonards brought Lilianna to Grand Rapids, that’s where they went, too. Meals were provided, as well as rides to and from the hospital.

But missing was the sense of community the house provides.   

“It’s really us supporting the families, but the families supporting each other as well,” Lewis said.

Officials at the house, which relies completely on donations, had to scramble.  

“It all happened so fast. We didn’t budget to have guests stay in hotels and have taxis if we needed them for two months. So the community just rallied and supported us,” Lewis said.

The organization needed $50,000 to cover hotel rooms and other costs. Within two weeks, nearly $63,000 was raised.

On Wednesday, families, including the Leonards, moved back in.

“I think that it will make a huge difference so we’re not always stressed out,” Leonard said.

Lilianna’s condition is improving. Surgeons at Helen DeVos have given the family hope.

The Ronald McDonald House has given them support.

“Words can’t even explain how grateful we are,” Leonard said. “It’s a lot to take in. Having that help, having that support is definitely a big difference. Definitely.”

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