Family Stories

Our families are the heart and soul of everything we do at Ronald McDonald House Charities of North Central Florida. Take a moment to meet our families and read their stories.

The Boykin Family

“They were overjoyed and hoping for the best, but almost immediately, Jordan started showing signs of trouble and was placed on bed rest.”

The Mwenda Family

“...They knew no one in the Gainesville area, so they came to the Ronald McDonald House.”

The Chrisholm Family

A week before Christmas, Cassey and Robert welcomed two little ones into the world, but within minutes, both Sierra and Robert Jr. were air-lifted to UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital.

The Boykin Family

Following a difficult pregnancy, Jordan and Brad Boykin never thought they would have another child, but in the summer of 2015, they were shocked to learn that Jordan was pregnant. They were overjoyed and hoping for the best, but almost immediately, Jordan started showing signs of trouble and was placed on bed rest.

At one of their first checkups, the doctor told them that their baby, Juliet, had hydrocephalus and some heart defects. In babies with hydrocephalus, the brain fills up with fluid, resulting in pressure and potentially causing damage or even death.

Brad and Jordan’s small local hospital was unable to provide the treatment Juliet would need and received the news that they would have to deliver at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital in Gainesville, over 5 hours away from their home. They were also told that Juliet’s conditions could keep her in intensive care for months.

“That’s when the Ronald McDonald House really came to our rescue,” says Brad. “I’m an environmental scientist, and Jordan is a wedding coordinator. We have a home, two SUVs, and two older kids, one in school and a two year old. How on earth were we going to be in Gainesville, a town neither of us had ever been to, for months at a time? When we arrived, it was so comforting to know that we had a place where we could stay right by the hospital for as long as we needed.”

Shortly after the Boykins moved into the Ronald McDonald House, Juliet was born. She was put in the NICU and had brain surgery at less than 24 hours old. Three weeks later, she had open heart surgery, and her treatment and recovery continued for 2 more months.

“After long, emotionally and physically draining days at the hospital, we were able to come home to RMH and talk for hours like a big family over the donated dinners and fresh baked goods from volunteers.

We became friends with many of the families, and we still keep in touch. There is something comforting in coming back to a family of people who understand your day-to-day struggles and the ups and downs. Our RMH friends truly cared about Juliet’s progress, as we cared for their children’s stories.”

“We felt so alone being so far away from our families and support group,” remembers Brad. “RMH made one of the scariest times in our lives a little easier. Without having a place to stay like RMH, we could not have been able to be at Juliet’s side for life-changing decisions that often happened in the middle of the night. We were able to stay close to her and help her recover. We were able to take shifts sleeping in the hospital with her while one of us came back to RMH to recharge in a nice bed.”

“The Ronald McDonald House was and continues to be a blessing to us. Having a place to stay and alleviating that burden was just one weight lifted when we were already carrying so much stress.”

The Mwenda Family

When Carley and Victor found out they were pregnant with quadruplets, they were overjoyed and excited to become new parents. Carley and Victor live in Tanzania, a country in east Africa, but after finding out they were pregnant, they decided to travel to Gainesville, Florida, to be near the world-renowned UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital and closer to Carley’s parents, who live in Florida.

They knew no one in the Gainesville area, so they came to the Ronald McDonald House. “Neither of us had slept much for days before we arrived,” said Carley. “We were also a little overwhelmed with all of the logistics of the hospital stay. We were grateful for a place to land while our babies were in the NICU.”

The “quads,” the nickname they were given at the House, were born at only 27 ½ weeks, but since then, have grown and are doing wonderfully! “Evie is our little vocal girl…from squeaks to grunts and everything in between. Eliana takes everything in with her half-moon eyes and her elfin smile.

Haven is our cherub, happily sleeping and smiling. Gabriel is Mr. Big Eyes and watches the world with curiosity. They have wonderfully fat little baby thighs and are growing constantly! Right now they all enjoy lifting their heads as much as possible, trying to roll over, and learning about the world around them.”

The meals provided by Visiting Chefs were one of the things Carley and Victor appreciated most. “What an unexpected blessing! We did not know that this would be provided and honestly didn’t know how much this would be a help as we traveled back and forth to the hospital.”

“To have a safe ‘home’ for those two months was incredible! The room was more than expected, as was the whole house. It was clean, organized, open, decorated, and welcoming.”

After 56 days at the House, Carley and Victor headed home to be with their healthy little babies, but they still stop by the Ronald McDonald House whenever they’re in town.