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Ronald McDonald House Helps San Diego Families Through Hard Times

Evening Edition

The Ronald McDonald House in San Diego serves as a home away from home for about 20,000 families a year dealing with premature births, cancer and other serious illnesses.

Three-and-a-half-month-old Hope is a bubbly baby girl, and child number six for the Nakamura family from Vista.

After giving birth to five other children, the couple decided to go the natural route and do it at home. But things didn't go exactly as planned.

"She came out with the cord around her neck and she wasn't breathing," Shane Nakamura, Hope's father, said.

Baby Hope was immediately rushed to Rady Children's Hospital where they took good care of her.

"During our time down here we were able to stay at the Ronald McDonald House, which was a real blessing to us," Shane Nakamura said. He named his daughter Hope because he believed she would make it.

Since 1980, families like the Nakamuras have relied on this nonprofit organization for lodging that's almost free of charge. Chuck Day with the organization says what makes it so unique is it's located about 300 feet from Rady Children's Hospital.

"The 350-bed hospital next door is key because we can allow families to come across and use our facilities even though they're not staying with us," Day said.

The heart of the Ronald McDonald House is "the great room" filled with comfortable couches where families can take a break. It also includes a commercial kitchen where about 150 families a day can really make themselves at home.

"They can make their own food here, so we'll refill these pantry shelves daily," Day said.

Local McDonald's operators provide about 10 percent of the annual budget, Day said, but maybe not so many hamburgers and french fries.

The rest of the money is raised in the community to support the campus school for K-12 students, and the 47 rooms for families to temporarily live in while their child is being treated.

This year a fundraising raffle's prizes include a $3.2 million house in Rancho Santa Fe.

"We try to create the dream that people want to invest in by buying that raffle ticket," Day said. "We know our house needs to be here. It enables us to be here in the future."

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