Having a child in the hospital is a tough thing for any family to go through, especially when that hospital is hundreds of miles away from home.
On Friday, people will get a chance to help support those families with a donation to the Denver Ronald McDonald House, a building that was home to 200 Gillette families last year, said Cherish Novotny, the organization’s Wyoming development director, and a former Gillette resident.
The Ronald McDonald House was home to her when her son, Noah, stayed in a pediatric intensive care unit in Denver, hours to the south of where she and her husband lived in Gillette.
In order to be by her son’s side, she faced the challenge of finding a place to stay in a different city, and the prospect of paying large amounts of money to stay in a hotel.
The Ronald McDonald House offers visitors a place, and asks for a voluntary $20 a day donation for residents. Novotny stayed there from 2002 to 2005, while her husband drove down to visit on weekends. During her stay, service organizations from around the city came in and provided meals.
She took comfort from other families there that were going through the same thing. Many of them were from Gillette — families that needed a level of care that was only available out of state.
“I don’t know what we would have done without the house,” Novotny said.
Her stay came to an end with the death of her son. Noah Novotny was buried in Mount Pisgah Cemetery. But Novotny did not forget how the house had helped her.
When her husband’s career transfer brought the two of them to live in Denver, she approached the house about volunteering there. They gave her a career.
Her most recent goal has been raising money for the “Light the House,” which is meant to bring $150,000 to the Ronald McDonald House via fundraising on the ground in Wyoming and in a radio-thon broadcast throughout Colorado.
Novotny has travelled to five Wyoming cities, her most recent being Douglas and Casper.
She hopes to make Wyoming residents realize that although the house is in Denver, it is a Wyoming resource, too. In fact, 60 percent of the families who used the house last year were from Wyoming because they were unable to get the level of pediatric care that they need in-state, she said. An average visitor spends four to eight weeks at the house.
Others from Gillette who have used the house include Heather Binkley, who stayed at the house after she gave birth to her daughter 10 weeks early and the baby had to stay at Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center in Denver.
The Ronald McDonald House is only a couple of blocks from the hospital, but Binkley said transportation could be arranged if she needed it.
She got two beds, access to showers, washers and driers, as well as libraries for children staying at the house.
There was even a weekly massage to help relieve the stress she was going through. One of the best things that the house gave her was that she could be at a place where there were others going through the same thing, she said.
Heather McDiarmid stayed at the Ronald McDonald House after her daughter was born severely underweight and hospitalized in Denver.
She stayed for the month of October 2011 and most of February of this year while her daughter underwent treatment.
“Without it, I would have lost everything I owned,” she said.
The house is still there for her when she drives down to Denver for checkups with her daughter.
Most in Gillette will never face the hardship of having a gravely ill child in the hospital. Those who want to talk to local families who have and support Ronald McDonald House can visit Novotny from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday at the McDonald’s on the corner of South Douglas Highway and Camel Drive.
If you go
What: A fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House in Denver, which has hosted 200 Gillette families in the past year. Families that have used the house will be there.
When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday
Where: McDonald’s on South Douglas Highway