Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Birthday Time for House That Tries to Be Home; A Global Gift Exchange Celebrates Ronald McDonald Houses for Children's Day

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Birthday Time for House That Tries to Be Home; A Global Gift Exchange Celebrates Ronald McDonald Houses for Children's Day

Article excerpt

Byline: JESSIE-LYNNE KERR

The Ronald McDonald House in Jacksonville celebrated its 19th birthday Friday as well as McDonald's World Children's Day with a special gift exchange across the globe.

Executive Director Joy Hardaker unwrapped a wall hanging made by children who have stayed at the Ronald McDonald House nearly 10,000 miles away in Melbourne, Australia. Earlier, children who have stayed at the house in San Marco created artwork that was sent to the Melbourne house.

The 271 Ronald McDonald Houses worldwide provide "homes away from home" for the families of critically or chronically ill or seriously injured children. Most who stay at the house in Jacksonville are being treated at nearby Wolfson Children's Hospital and Nemours Children's Clinic or at Shands Jacksonville hospital or Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital.

It is the second year that the two houses have exchanged art rendered by their young guests, Hardaker said.

This year, she added, the children at both houses were asked to include Ronald McDonald, something that signifies their country and their house dog.

Jacksonville's Ronald McDonald House has a service dog, Anita, a Labrador retriever. Melbourne's house has a black dog of unknown origin named Egan.

The wall hanging made by the Melbourne children included their handprints, a globe, Ronald McDonald and Egan. The children also sent a book they made that told of places in Melbourne that Egan likes to visit.

Bill and Michelle Cazella of Palm Coast are staying at the Jacksonville house along with their three daughters, Grace, 16, Crystal, 13, and Heather, 8, while their son, Jason, 15, is in Wolfson awaiting surgery to remove a nonmalignant brain tumor.

"When he had five grand mal seizures in one day, we knew it was time to have it removed," Michelle Cazella said. …

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