Last week, the 13 year old nephew of my girlfriend died after his second battle with cancer. Justin Hudson was one of the most friendly, gregarious kids I've ever met. His excitement and positive attitude were contagious. Justin's years-long battle brought together his community, as his death broke its heart. There are two things that stick out to me at this point - the first is that Justin was a fighter. He surprised his doctors and beat the odds, time and time again. And second, boy was Justin loved. From the memorial service to his Facebook page, the outpouring of support for Justin preceding his death and for his family following his death has been incredible. While the loss of someone so young leaves a feeling of unfairness and perhaps bitterness, the bravery with which he faced his situation and the love inspired by his short life must be celebrated and learned from.
Earlier this week I spoke with Justin's mother and asked how I and others could help. She said that the Ronald McDonald House of Central Pennsylvania was invaluable to Justin and the family through their ordeal. Before I get into some of the research I've done on the charity, I will start by giving readers the opportunity to leave a donation in memory of Justin Hudson (link to donate is here). My family and girlfriend will match the first $200 received. Please let me know if you plan to donate so we can track the amount to be matched (email: email@example.com); of course, if you do not feel comfortable emailing, anonymous donations are welcome as well. Donations can be made either to the General Operating Fund or to the new "Room to Grow" campaign. I will be donating to the latter.
Now, on to the more familiar part of the blog - learning about something new. Ronald McDonald House certainly fits the bill. If you've been to a McDonald's, you've probably seen the change collection canisters in front of the cash registers. In truth, I always imagined that whatever charity these canisters supported would be something hoakie. Well, I was wrong. Ronald McDonald house has a presence in 52 countries around the world, and its primary focus is on sick children. Its flagship service has been to provide low or no cost lodging near hospitals to families of critically ill children. It also provides in-hospital educational and recreational resources for kids. Finally, the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile project consists of many mobile treatment centers that provide primary care, immunizations and other vital services to areas that are underserved.
At the local level, the Central Pennsylvania chapter (based in Hershey) was extremely important to Justin and his family. While in the intensive care unit, Justin had board games, books and movies to pass the time (with his most recent cancer, he was hospitalized for the better part of 7 months). His mother was of course by his side throughout, and when she was not able to sleep in the hospital with him, she stayed nearby in a room provided by the Ronald McDonald house. This service made an already unimaginably stressful situation much more logistically feasible. In Hershey, there is currently a waiting list of families of sick children without a place to stay while their children are treated.
Charitable giving is an individual matter; there is certainly no lack of problems needing attention and resources. So whether giving to the Ronald McDonald House in memory of Justin makes sense for you or not, I encourage you to think about what matters to you. Perhaps his death can remind us of the ways in which we can, on the margin, make the world a little bit better.