Brooke VanHoute

In September 2010, close Ronald McDonald House friend Brooke delivered her baby boy six weeks early. While she and her family experienced long days and scary nights, they knew baby Garrett was in the most capable hands with the Rochester-area doctors who were doing everything they could to bring him to health.

Brooke and her family stayed at Ronald McDonald House for seven of the 12 long days Garrett was in the NICU before coming home, resting and happy together as a family living their everyday lives.

But five years later, the family faced a similar struggle. Baby Layton was born 10 weeks early and faced a six-week NICU stay, including three weeks at Strong Hospital before moving to Rochester General Hospital. Brooke and her family returned to Ronald McDonald House for two full weeks. Together, the family worked long and hard until Layton built up the strength to join the rest of his family at home.

Today, Garrett and Layton are healthy, happy and, according to their mom, rambunctious boys! It took two special stays at Ronald McDonald House make the impossible possible.

During both stays, Brooke lived at the House on Westmoreland Drive. “The house was gorgeous. It’s roomy, calm, peaceful and inviting,” she said. “There is so much panic and beeping at the hospital, so I cherished the quiet the House gave me.”

Little things one might take for granted were a treasure for Brooke during her stay—like always having food on the table, peace and quiet, and a comfortable place to watch TV and sleep. “It truly felt like a home away from home,” she said.

Several social workers and RMHC team members also made an impact on Brooke and her family. To this day, she collects pop tabs and donates them to the House. And her mother, who stayed with her during both visits and lives in South Carolina, volunteers monthly to cook dinner for families staying at the House.

While no one expects to need Ronald McDonald House’s services, as Brooke once thought, the House will always open its doors when a family needs it.