New Ronald McDonald House in Winfield welcomes its first family
Lisa and Chris Post are about to take the next step in what has been an unimaginably painful journey -- their little boy's battle against a brain tumor.
But on Sunday, as they looked ahead to their son's next round of treatments, they said a small part of their stress had disappeared.
The Post family is the first to move into the new Ronald McDonald House in Winfield, a two-story, 19,000-square-foot facility that stands across the street from Central DuPage Hospital.
The house gives the Posts a comfortable, nurturing place to live while their 17-month-old son, Caleb, undergoes special radiation therapy at the Central DuPage Hospital Proton Center in Warrenville. The Post family lives in Michigan, near Ann Arbor.
"We could have stayed at a hotel, but that would have been so isolating, and we've already felt very alone during our cancer journey," Lisa Post said. "This feels like a real home. We know we'll get so much support here. That makes a huge difference."
The Post family participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony Sunday that formally opened the Winfield house. A couple hundred people attended the ceremony, including a number of local and state politicians.
The Winfield Ronald McDonald House is the fifth one to open in the Chicago area.
Like the other local facilities, the Winfield house is designed to provide comfort and support to families with children who are critically ill.
The first floor of the Winfield house has a living room with a fireplace, a large dining room, a kitchen with multiple areas to prepare meals, a playroom, a family room with a flat-screen television and a home office with two computers.
Upstairs, there are two dens, an exercise room, a laundry room and 12 guest rooms, each with a private bathroom.
Chris Post said that just as important as all the amenities is the fact that other families struggling with pediatric illness will be staying in the house.
As many as six additional families are expected to join the Posts this week.
"It's a relief to know that we'll be able to talk to people who are going through something similar to us," he said.
"That will be such a big help."
Doug Porter, chief executive officer of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana, said interfamily connection is the key feature of the houses.
"Just try to imagine what a family goes through when a child becomes seriously ill -- there could be lost income, insurance issues, all the stress of the illness and treatments," Porter said Sunday.
"These Ronald McDonald Houses help these families connect, support each other. We believe that helps with the healing process."
Families who stay at a Ronald McDonald House are asked, but not required, to make a $10 donation for each night of their stays.
Aside from that, living at the house is free.
The Posts expect to stay about seven weeks, which is how long proton radiation therapy generally takes.
The therapy, available at just 14 hospitals in the United States, can target small areas with radiation without damaging surrounding healthy tissues.
Caleb was diagnosed with cancer when he was just 4 months old. He's been through multiple surgeries and chemotherapy treatments.
"We're praying that this proton therapy will be the end, that he'll be cancer free after this," Lisa Post said.
The $6.3 million Ronald McDonald House in Winfield has been financed largely with support from the Cadence Health Foundation, the CDH auxiliary, the Topfer Family Foundation and countless other donors.
The foundation also is working to raise $1 million to help pay for the house's operational expenses for three years.
Among the politicians who attended Sunday's ribbon-cutting ceremony were Winfield Village President Erik Spande and Illinois Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, a former member of the Wheaton City Council.