A Tale of Two Eight Year Old Boys

We had a very busy weekend. Saturday we prepped and cooked most of the day for our stint as guest chefs at the Ronald McDonald House, along with eight other members of our church.

Our Dinner Crew

Our Dinner Crew

I love to cook, and Dave loves to be my sous chef, but preparing an entrée for ninety people is daunting. Fortunately it all turned out great. More on that in a moment.

Sunday we were up early to get to Temple University for our eight year old grandson’s first big gymnastics meet. The university’s gymnasts teach the kids. It’s a win/win!

Dylan discovered his natural talent for gymnastics a couple of years ago. He progressed so naturally his parents were excited to get him into the program at Temple.

Photos from a proud Grandma:

on the high bar

on the high bar

on the parallel bars

on the parallel ba


We came home from the meet and got our dinner offering ready to go. We met at church to caravan across town to the Ronald McDonald House. I’d never seen it before. Wow.

The main house is an old mansion with gorgeous leaded glass windows, beautiful pocket doors, carved wood ceilings and walls that envelope you. Its elegance is warm and welcoming.

There are additions to the original building and in all there are forty-five guest rooms. The rooms accommodate three to five people. Siblings are welcome. Whatever it takes to help the families feel comfortable is the goal.

The kitchen and dining room are divided by a half wall with a serving counter. There are eight stoves, four dishwashers, at least six sinks, and I can’t remember how many refrigerators and freezers.

While we cooked, our Rector’s husband and friends, The Alan Segal Jazz Quartet, played in the main lobby. It was a nice added element to the evening. The kids loved it, too!

One of the kids helping Leon Jordan on the drums.

One of the kids helping Leon Jordan on the drums.

We had two hours to prepare and we used every minute. We served an impressive buffet with a great salad bar, soup, chicken, shepherd’s pie, hot dogs, roasted potatoes, and more desserts than I could count.

When the line of guests dwindled we sat down to join them. I found myself across from a woman who was taking turns with her husband for dinner. One had to stay with their son, who had chemo that day.

She didn’t talk much in the beginning, but Dave asked her about her son and she opened up. He can commiserate about chemo in a firsthand manner.

We learned her son had a rare bone marrow cancer. He was diagnosed at a hospital near their home in Oswego, NY. The doctors suggested hospice.

They learned of a trial at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and brought him here. That was three years ago. He’s now eight and they spend seven days here for treatment, and then go home for two weeks. That’s the schedule they’ve been on all this time.

She said, “After treatments he goes back to being a normal little boy. If he ran in here the only thing that would give it away would be his bald head.”

They have a five year old daughter who comes with them, and a nineteen year old son who stays home with their dogs. There was no sadness or regret in her tale. Just gratitude for everything and everyone who make their lives a bit easier until the cure comes along.

I marvel at the schedule my son and daughter-in-law keep with their two boys. This past weekend alone they were running between gymnastics for Dylan and David’s hockey tournament, which was about forty-five minutes away. There’s barely a day goes by without some sports or school event to run to.

After listening to this incredible mother speak candidly, and lightheartedly, about her family’s schedule I quietly wept. There but for the grace of God…

And I know they are just one of forty-five stories in that incredible building, and so many more across the globe.

If you would like to learn more about the Ronald McDonald Houses across the country and inquire about volunteer opportunities click here. I highly recommend the experience.



  1. How cool about your grandson doing gymnastics. I know some of my fondest memories are of watching my stepdaughter compete in gymnastics from age 11 through her high school graduation.

    And bless you for the gift of your time and talent at the Ronald McDonald House.

  2. Barbara

    Thanks Karen. I’m hoping Dylan stays with it, maybe into college! That would be cool. He really is a natural.

    As for RMH…it was a privilege!

  3. Wow do I have a catch in my throat. What an eye-opening tale and you have convinced me to donate to the House. They do amazing work and since I live nowhere near one to donate time, I CAN donate finances! Beautifully, beautifully written.

    • Barbara

      Thank you Nan! Your donation, no matter how large or small, will be put to great use.

  4. I was, and am, really impressed by your cooking and organisational prowess, but when you got to the bit about that poor child I could hardly read it. It is heart breaking to read such things, but to live it must be beyond my imagination

    • Barbara

      It’s amazing what these families endure, Peter. And this charity goes above and beyond to make their lives a little bit easier. It’s really wonderful, even if there is heart break.

  5. So many things to love about this story Barbara. Giving, sharing and nurturing. What a great weekend!

    • Barbara

      It really was a great weekend, Catherine. I’m really glad I got to learn more about the Ronald McDonald organization. They do amazing work.

  6. Anne-Marie

    I think in 7 more years we may see him in a Summer Olympics!

    • Barbara

      That may be a stretch, but if he keeps it up we might see a scholarship in his future! I’d be fine with that, and I’m sure his parents would, too.

  7. What a weekend — so wonderful that you helped at the Ronald McDonald house!

    As for Dylan — so…what year do you think he’ll be competing in the Olympics? 🙂

    • Barbara

      Heheehee Lee! Wouldn’t that be cool? As for Ronald’s house…we should think about that for our QV group! That might be fun, and I know it would be rewarding.

    • Barbara

      Those were actually from the Temple photographer. Really gets the intensity, doesn’t it?

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