Teenage girl holding the House cat Smokey

Lasting Friendships: Karin’s Story

At age four, Karin from Chino Valley, Arizona was diagnosed with a genetic deletion and duplication in her DNA. The one-in-a-million diagnosis has since resulted in countless trips to Phoenix for medical appointments. After over 200 visits to the House in a span of 11 years, Karin, now 15-year-old, considers Ronald McDonald House her second home.

The family first discovered the House in 2003 when a nurse found Karin’s parents sleeping in the hospital room. “We were amazed by this place,” mom Brandi said. “We couldn’t believe it existed.” Through the years, the House has served as a constant ally to Karin’s family. “We just feel safe here,” said Brandi. “When you have a procedure and your kid gets sick afterwards or there’s a complication, home is 110 miles away. But being able to stay close by at the House takes a lot of worry off you.”

But more than just a place to rest and recover, Karin and her mom have built lasting friendships during their stays, including with another family who makes frequent trips to the House. While their moms bond over their experiences, Karin and her friend play basketball and hide-and-seek. “They laugh about things and can get on each other’s level,” Brandi said. “They can just be kids and not worry about what is wrong with them.”

Another furry creature at the House helps bring a comforting atmosphere to their “home-away-from-home.” When you ask Karin what her favorite part of the House is, the answer is simple – Smokey the House cat. “I can’t see my dog, so I like having Smokey here,” she said.

Since 1985, Ronald McDonald House has provided the comfort, hope and courage families like Karin’s need during their journey. For Karin and her family, it means more than just a place they visit twice a month. “It’s peaceful. It eases my mind,” said Brandi. “There’s something very special about the House.”