The Bartolini family of Portage, Indiana is a long-time supporter and annual resident of the Ronald McDonald House of Gainesville, but they were no strangers to the Ronald McDonald House Charities when they first came to town.
After Kyle suffered an incomplete spinal cord injury from a gunshot wound at age 3, parents Michael and Jamie took their son to Chicago to receive treatment and stayed in a Ronald McDonald House in the city. The family initially did not want to take a social worker’s offer to stay at the House.
“We first said no but soon changed our minds when we realized we would need somewhere to shower and sleep,” Jamie said.
Once Kyle enrolled in a research therapy program at the University of Florida in 2005, Jamie packed up and brought him to Florida to stay at the Ronald McDonald House of Gainesville. This was the first time during Kyle’s treatment that he and his mom had been without the rest of the family.
“It was a sacrifice, but we knew it was a chance of a lifetime and we were willing to do whatever it took to help him be the best he could be,” Jamie said.
The staff and volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House of Gainesville helped Jamie and Kyle feel right at home. Because Kyle did not have to stay at the hospital he was able to explore Gainesville and the surrounding area with his mom. The staff and volunteers helped them find fun places to go, such as the butterfly garden, the mall, the springs, car races and a group of volunteers invited them to worship at their church. This made a vast impact on Jamie during that initial stay.
“We have met some great people in our many stays at the Ronald McDonald House of Gainesville,” Jamie said. “It’s important to support and encourage families when they’re faced with desperate situations. RMH creates an environment to do just that. Often times we’d hear how children were doing laundry with other families. RMH is truly our ‘Home away from Home,’” Jamie said.
The Bartolini family now supports the Ronald McDonald House Charities of North Central Florida by attending events and sharing their story. Kyle will be followed in the research program until age 18 and the entire family, including Kyle’s dad Michael and sisters, Carley and Courtney, now stays at the house when they are in Gainesville. Jamie said the family looks forward to being at the Ronald McDonald House of Gainesville each year and they are all appreciative of what they have.
“We are thankful for the people who work here,” Jamie said. “They all have such big hearts and what they do is important.”