Helping families with sick children during the holidays


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla – First-time parents Taylor and Chris Ballard are trying to figure out what it means to be the new parents of twins this holiday season.

“This Christmas is the first Christmas for us as a family with our new babies and everything,” said Taylor Ballard.

“I think this is probably our most special Christmas yet so we are so excited to celebrate this year and look forward to the many more Christmases we will have with our two boys.”


What would you like to know

  • New parents Taylor and Chris Ballard spend Christmas at Ronald McDonald House in St. Pete
  • Their newborn son Quentin receives treatment at All Children’s Hospital
  • Ronald McDonald House

One of the boys is Quentin. He and his family are originally from Orlando, but they are spending their first Christmas at the Ronald McDonald House in St. Petersburg.

That’s because it’s right next door to the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, where her identical twin brother, Dante, is being treated for a congenital diaphragmatic hernia, or CDH.

“A baby was perfectly fine and a baby, his diaphragm just didn’t fully form and that allowed part of his stomach and intestines to move up into his chest,” Ballard said.

Taylor and Chris have been home for over 100 days, arriving while Taylor was still pregnant.

At just 2 months old, Dante has already had two surgeries.

“He had diaphragm repair surgery when he was one week old, and then last week they put on a feeding tube,” Ms. Ballard said.

Others are planned for 2022.

“He needs surgery, he has a hole in his heart,” Ballard said. “He also has bowel problems.”

The new family finds out all about it with the help of Ronald McDonald House. The association takes care of accommodation and food for families with sick children.

“Make yourself feel like you’re home away from home,” said Chris Ballard. “Meals are taken care of. They make specialty vacation meals. “

A kitchen full of volunteers used to prepare and give these meals, but the pandemic has changed that.

“We have maybe about a meal group which is a group that regularly visits the house before COVID on a monthly basis and limits it to four people,” said Joe Citro, director of development and marketing at the ‘OMRM.

This means that most meals have to be purchased instead.

The pandemic has also meant that families cannot reunite for Christmas inside the house like they once did, but they are still connecting.

“We can bond and share mutual experiences,” Ms. Ballard shared. “As much as people try to understand, it’s hard unless you’ve been through it, so it’s amazing that other families here understand what we’re going through.

“Without a family, this just wouldn’t have been possible,” Ballard said.

Count blessings and thank a new family around Christmas time.

“It’s certainly not a Christmas we originally planned,” Ms. Ballard said. “However, I think it’s always so special, it’s so nice to have our boys here and to be able to start our family and our Christmas traditions.”

How does OMRM help families?

OMRM continued to serve families by offering: hotel stays, a room in our homes, take-out or a simple toothbrush for children and parents

Community support can help relieve some of the stress and provide:

  • The OMRM offers a place to stay for parents to be with their sick child.
  • OMRM provides all the essentials such as meals, emotional and physical support to reduce the logistical burden on the family.
  • OMRM saves a family nearly $ 1,000 per week in hotel, travel and food costs, reducing their financial burden.
  • With your help, we offer all of these services free of charge to our families.

How to help:

  • rmhctampabay.org/togetherness
  • Text OMRM to 44321.
  • $ 40 can provide food for a family of four.
  • $ 100 provides one night.

Highlights of OMRM:

  • Pay more than $ 6,500 per month for meals
  • Over 1,500 hotel nights for families
  • The houses are operating at 85% of their capacity.
  • OMRM Tampa Bay provides food, rest and support to more than 2,000 families with children receiving medical care nearby.
  • OMRM Tampa Bay has 4 homes in the Tampa Bay area.
  • The OMRM offers a place to stay for parents to be with their sick child.
  • OMRM provides all the essentials such as meals, emotional and physical support to reduce the logistical burden on the family.
  • OMRM saves a family nearly $ 1,000 per week in hotel, travel and food costs, reducing their financial burden.
  • With your help, we offer all of these services free of charge to our families.


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