When I was born, my parents learned that I had a heart defect called ‘transposition of the great vessels’ that required open heart surgery. The next day, I was flown from Tallahassee, Florida, to Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Florida. My parents drove the two and a half hours from Tallahassee to Gainesville to meet me at Shands. I sometimes think about how scared they must have been on that trip. I know it was hard for my mother, who was still recovering from giving birth the day before, to be away from me, worrying about how I would handle major surgery, and whether the repair would be successful.  

One thing my parents didn’t have to worry about is where they would stay. As soon as they heard there was a Ronald McDonald House in Gainesville, they knew they would be well taken care of. My mother was familiar with Ronald McDonald House Charities. While a student at Valdosta State University in Georgia, she fundraised for RMHC with her Alpha Delta Pi sorority sisters. She could not have imagined how important RMHC would become to our family.

In the few days before my surgery and for two weeks after, my parents stayed at the Ronald McDonald House close to Shands Hospital. This experience showed my mother what the generosity of donors and thoughtfulness of the wonderful staff and volunteers at the House truly means to the families staying there. They also realized how lucky they were that my surgery was a success and we could all go home together after just a few weeks. 

Today, I am a Junior at the University of Central Florida in Orlando and my major is Health Science. I hope to become a Physician’s Assistant someday. I feel so blessed to be able to follow my mother’s example of support for RMHC – I now volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House alongside my own Alpha Delta Pi sorority sisters. Twice a month we prepare lunch or dinner for the families staying at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children or Florida Hospital Orlando. My sorority still supports RMHC as its national philanthropy, as it did when my mother was in school. At our Chapter, we collect pop tabs and each year we host a ‘Cheers for Charity’ event that raises about $10,000 for our two Houses. As the new Philanthropy Chair for my ADPi chapter, I am so excited to continue my support of RMHC. 

Being here today to show my gratitude for the love and support the Ronald McDonald House offered my parents when they needed it most is so important to me. One thing I know is that I will continue to be connected with RMHC for the rest of my life. 

Forever grateful,

Whitley Simpson

I know I will be connected with RMHC for the rest of my life.

Whitley Simpson