Posted on 04-14-2015

A parent with a child who needs critical care in the hospital is under an extreme amount of stress.  But they don't have to always worry about where they're going to stay, thanks to the Ronald McDonald House.  Sioux Falls has two homes and the organization is currently holding its biggest fundraising event of the year.

Lindsey Leonard's newborn son Liam is enough to make your heart melt--but it was his heart that failed a week ago when he was born in Yankton.

"When he was born, he didn't have a heartbeat," Leonard said

Doctors were able to stabilize little Liam, but he had to be airlifted to Sioux Falls.  Once his mother was discharged, she followed him here. 

"And they asked where I planned on staying and I told them I didn't really have a place to stay," Leonard said.

Avera McKennan arranged for her to stay at the Ronald McDonald House on campus. 

"I guess I never really knew about this place until I was in a time of need.  It's definitely a great place to have available when situations like this happen," Leonard said.

Those situations happened to more than 1,200 families last year, who spent more than 5,000 nights at Sioux Falls two Ronald McDonald House locations.

"If you think about saving families money, $85 a night for a hotel fee--that's almost $600,000 we saved families last year, just being able to provide a place for them to stay and rest," Kevin Miles of the Ronald McDonald House said.

Now the Ronald McDonald house is about to raffle off a private plane ride and tickets to the Kentucky Derby for six people. 

The Ronald McDonald House holds three fundraisers throughout the year, but the Kentucky Derby raffle is by far the largest.  About 80 percent of the house's funding comes from donations. 

"The money raised for the Kentucky Derby goes to actually keeping the lights on in our houses and providing opportunities for our families to stay with us," Miles said.

A gift of shelter that helped Leonard get through her baby's health crisis. 

Angela Kennecke: What do you think about everything this little guy has been through?
Leonard: It's a lot and he's a trooper. He's a very strong little man.

And little Liam has been given a clean bill of health.

Last year, the Kentucky Derby raffle raised more than $70,000 for the Ronald McDonald House.  The private jet ride is donated by Bell Incorporated in Sioux Falls and the tickets to the Kentucky Derby by Kristen Zueger of Van Buskirk Companies. 

- Angela Kennecke, Keloland