Woodworking, Darth Vader and normalcy

July 20, 2016
By Shannon, Kevin, Brody and Parker Rankka
Kevin, Brody, Shannon and Parker Rankka

Kevin: Our journey to Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) Toronto was a quick one, as many families experience.

In May 2014 we suspected something big was going on with our now eight-year-old son, Brody, and took him to SickKids hoping for an MRI and some answers. That same day, a baseball-sized tumour was discovered on his brain and it was taken out that afternoon. We later found out it was cancerous.
One year later, almost to the date, the tumour returned. Brody underwent a second surgery and we were told he would need seven weeks of radiation at Princess Margaret Hospital.
This is when RMHC Toronto became our home away from home. When we moved in, we realized this was where we could keep our family close.
Shannon: Our experience at RMHC Toronto was exceptional. From the staff to the facilities, it is definitely a world-class organization. The House gave us normalcy when our life was anything but normal. During our time there, I was able to feed my family in a regular kitchen with everything I needed. As a mom and a teacher, I understand that children need normalcy, routine and structure to thrive. The House was a relaxing and quiet place to keep our routines going. 
The House is also a place that family can visit. When my parents, aunts, cousins and friends wanted to come by and support with a chat, I was able to offer them a comfy private spot to talk and a cup of coffee. I loved that I could welcome them to the House like it was my very own home.
Kevin: RMHC Toronto relieved so much stress for our family in many ways. For one, it helped to reduce the financial burden that comes with an illness in the family.  It meant that I could continue to work knowing that Shannon and the boys had a safe and comfortable place to stay. I could join them when I had a day or two off and help with appointments and making decisions about Brody’s health care.
We were also grateful that there was no longer the need to drive back and forth to Toronto from our home. Often our drive would be two and a half hours each way. Not only is that a lot of gas over seven weeks, but our quality of life would have been poor. Brody was able to get the rest he needed instead of being toted around in the car every day. This meant he had energy to enjoy other activities throughout his treatment.
Shannon: Part of what makes RMHC Toronto special is the friendships and understandings that develop between families. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and when one is sick, strangers become family at your home away from home.
As moms, we were able to share frustrations and successes over our children's health, as well as conversations about what the future holds and what life will be like once we get home. We were there to care for our family, but quickly became a village to help support others. Even being able to meet a mom after bedtime for a quiet chat or yoga on the peaceful lawn made life just a little easier and a little more normal. Support comes in so many forms and RMHC Toronto provides a place for relationships to survive and thrive.

Thank you to everyone who supports RMHC Toronto. It is because of people like you that families like ours are able to stay together through the toughest times of our lives.

Top ten reasons Brody and Parker love RMHC Toronto:
10. We get to play video games

Brody and Parker playing video games

9.   Creating melty beads in the Child Life room

Parker holding melty beads

8.   The awesome playground

Kids on the playground

7.   Water Day at Summer Fun camp

Parker holding a water pail

6.   Meeting Darth Vader

Brody and Darth Vader

5.   Hanging out with Bogey, the therapy dog

Brody with Bogey the therapy dog

4.   Writing on our chalkboard

Chalkboard with a countdown of Brody's treatments

3.   Woodworking with Alex

Painting a wooden airplane

2.   Comfy beds

Parker and Brody asleep in bed

And the number one reason is…

1.   All the friends we made!

Parker and Brody being silly with their friends

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