The impact RMH has on one family

Betty Stoloff Story

Let me introduce you to two inspiring people: Carlos and Maria.

Last October Carlos, Maria, and her two daughters were living in Seaside Heights. Maria was pregnant. Carlos was a cook at a local restaurant.

Tragedy struck when Sandy destroyed their home, forcing them to live with family and friends

On December 13, still without a home of their own, Maria gave birth to her daughter, Megan, who was born prematurely, weighing less than two pounds and suffering serious complications. Carlos, Maria, and the two girls moved into the Long Branch House while Megan received critical care at Monmouth Medical.

Despite the tragedy of losing their home and the challenges facing their newborn Megan, Carlos, Maria and their family were an inspiring presence in the House. Even while he was busy attending to Megan and working at temporary cooking jobs to support the family, Carlos regularly found time to cook delicious meals not only for his family but for the entire House. His kids did their best to maintain a state of normalcy. They enrolled in the local Long Branch school district, and Carlos helped them with their homework in the evening. The House was such a home in fact that the children -- who ultimately took to calling our wonderful acting House Manager in Long Branch, Maria, “abuela” -- even squabbled over whose turn it was to play video games.

Unfortunately, bad things often happen to good people like Carlos and Maria. Megan’s condition became worse, and she was sent to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where they stayed for three weeks at the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House.

 On March 25, tragedy struck again when Megan slipped away.

Most people who suffered through Carlos and Maria’s harrowing journey would be angry and bitter, cynically convinced that Fate has singled them out for her harshest treatment. But when I met Carlos and Maria at Megan’s wake, they betrayed none of those negative emotions. They were sad, to be sure. But their sadness was tempered by sincere gratitude for all the support provided by their family, friends, and our great organization.

Instead of anger and bitterness, they insisted on seeing only the good things that came from the experience. Maria told me that the great thing she learned from the experience is that your true family -- the people who will care, support, and hug you in a time of need -- is much larger than you could ever imagine and includes strangers you may never come to know.

Carlos and Maria stay in touch with our Long Branch staff. They say they are doing well. Carlos is working hard, and the two girls are back with their friends at their regular school. When Carlos has some free time away from the restaurant, he promises to make dinner for the House. Our Long Branch staff can’t wait.

There are a lot of lessons that we can learn from how Maria and Carlos faced the tragedies that befell them. But as members of the Ronald McDonald House community we should all be proud that our organization was there to help Carlos and Maria in their time of desperate need and, and we should all be energized to do more.

Thank you for your continued support of our mission.


To learn the many ways you can help families in need at The Ronald McDonald House, please visit our volunteer page or make a donation.