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The Vaters family of Corner Brook can never do enough to thank Ronald McDonald House

Tracy and Mark Vaters of Corner Brook, posing here for a photo with their sons, six-year-old Kyle Vaters and 14-year-old Mitchell Prosper, will be doing their seventh Red Shoe Crew Walk for Families in Irishtown-Summerside this weekend.
Tracy and Mark Vaters of Corner Brook, posing here for a photo with their sons, six-year-old Kyle Vaters and 14-year-old Mitchell Prosper, will be doing their seventh Red Shoe Crew Walk for Families in Irishtown-Summerside this weekend. - Gary Kean

For Tracey and Mark Vaters, Ronald McDonald House was like a breath of fresh, reassuring air just when their family needed it the most.

Just four days after their son Kyle was born on Aug. 9, 2012, he had to be flown from Corner Brook to the neonatal intensive care unit of the Janeway Children’s Hospital in St. John’s with bowel complications.

He would be diagnosed with a congenital defect called Hirschsprung's disease.

It would be the start of a long, hard journey for the family with multiple trips back and forth to the Janeway through the ensuing years. The trips continue to this day, but are now mostly just for regular checkups on Kyle’s condition since major surgeries that have improved his quality of life.

On Sept. 7, 2012, a few days into their second visit at the Janeway in less than a month, the doors of Ronald McDonald House were opened to the families of kids requiring treatment at the children’s hospital.

The Vaters were among the first handful of families to be welcomed into the home away from home on opening day. They have not been able to avail of the accommodations every time they’ve had to go to the Janeway with Kyle since, but have probably stayed there a dozen times in the last six years.

“They call it a house and that’s what it is,” said Mark. “It’s not a hotel. It’s a home and it feels like one.”

The $15 per night fee families pay to stay there is a major financial burden lifted when the alternative is to spend night after night in a costly hotel room. Having access to a kitchen to cook their own food and a comfortable place to get some rest between hospital visits is invaluable.

It’s more than about saving money and having a place to stay. During a stay in May 2017, Tracey was floored when Ronald McDonald House staff partnered with Provincial Airlines to unexpectedly fly her home on Mother’s Day morning so she could spend some time with their oldest son, 14-year-old Mitchell Prosper, before flying her back to St. John’s later that night.

“I got to spend time with Kyle in the morning, fly home and go to Mitchell’s cadet annual inspection and go out to dinner with him and then come back to be with Kyle that same night, all at no cost to me,” she said. “It was the most amazing experience ever. They have large hearts.”

This Saturday, the Vaters will be participating in their seventh Red Shoe Crew Walk for Families to raise funds and awareness for Ronald McDonald House. While there is a walk in Corner Brook, they are participating in the one in Tracy’s hometown of Irishtown-Summerside as they have done ever since Kyle was one month old.

Mark said it is an honour to do their share in giving back to a charity that has meant so much to them these past six years. It’s too bad, he noted, that families need to be in such unfortunate situations to get to experience firsthand what Ronald McDonald House does for the families of sick kids.

“You don’t feel there is any way to repay what they’ve been able to provide for us and everybody else,” he said. “It’s hard to think how to reciprocate everything they’ve done.”

The Vaters say they have developed lifelong connections with not just the Ronald McDonald House and Janeway staff, but also with some of the families they met while there. In fact, Kyle goes to school with three kids he has met during stays there, including one he shared a room with.

https://walkforfamilies.ca/

Here are details of Red Shoe Crew Walk for Families events happening in western Newfoundland this weekend:

Irishtown-Summerside

Date: Saturday, Sept. 22

Location: Irishtown Community Hall

Registration Time: 11:00am

Walk Start: 12:00pm

Corner Brook

Date: Saturday, September 22, 2018

Location: Margaret Bowater Park

Registration Time: 9:45am

Walk Start: 10:45am

Stephenville

Date: Sunday, September 23, 2018

Location: McDonald’s Stephenville

Registration Time: 9:45am

Walk Start: 10:45am

Source: Ronald McDonald House Charities Newfoundland and Labrador

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