Population 265

August 04, 2017
Finding community in a House the size of your hometown
Sara with her mom and dad
Living in a house with a population the size of your hometown would seem strange to most people.

But the Smith family from Main Brook in northwest Newfoundland, population 265, says they’ve found a sense of community here nonetheless.

“Everyone is here for the same reason,” says Danielle Smith. “They can be a great support to you, and you can be a great support to them.”

Danielle and her husband, Dave, have been at Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) Toronto since April 18, 2017 while their three-year-old daughter, Sara, recovers from her third major heart surgery. Sara was born with a condition called hypoplastic right heart syndrome, and she unfortunately has experienced many complications along the way.

“Everything that could go wrong did go wrong,” says Danielle.

While the family originally expected to be in Toronto for about two weeks, their stay has now passed the 100-day mark while they wait for Sara’s condition to improve and for the advice of a new team of experts to review her case.

“We have never made Sara feel any different because she has a special heart, but she knows she’s here to get her heart fixed,” says Danielle.

That outlook has helped her – and her mom and dad – make the most of her often challenging experiences.


Danielle and Dave were delighted when Sara was discharged from the hospital on July 13 to stay at the House full-time.

“Sara is very social,” says Danielle. “So wherever she goes, she chats up a storm. And she makes little friends.”

Being in the House also gives Sara access to the outdoors, which she loves. And she adores the arts and crafts room. Paintings are her specialty.

The homelike atmosphere of the House, coupled with her mom and dad’s cooking and bread making, has also helped Sara improve her eating and drinking. Healthy and consistent nutrition is important for children with her condition, but Sara often hasn’t had much of an appetite.

The family is grateful to the community of Main Brook and to Dave’s employer for supporting them in so many ways. The also appreciate the people who make RMHC Toronto possible. While they wait, they are comforted by knowing that the House will always be here for them.

“We never dreamt in a million years we’d be here this long,” says Dave. “We’re just so grateful for this place.” 

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