When Christine and Jack Gardner were sitting at the bedside of their son, Kaiden, they never imagined they would be in a position to help other families. At birth, Kaiden was diagnosed with a congenital heart disease known as Tetralogy of Fallot. At three months, he was admitted to the hospital for his first surgery, which took place on December 28, 2012.
Mom and Dad, who live in Massillon, had no plans to leave the hospital without their son. For 11 days they slept by his bedside so they could be close to him at all times. While there, they used the Ronald McDonald Family Room daily. They did their laundry, took showers, ate snacks, and relaxed in the recliners.
In addition to the emotional toll it took on the family, the time was financially difficult. Christine couldn't work for nearly a year after Kaiden's birth. And they didn't expect to stay in the hospital so many days. "The food at the Family Room really helped us with expenses."
The Gardners had always been a generous couple. Each year the softball tournament they organized raised thousands of dollars for local charities. After their experiences with Kaiden, they founded Kaiden Kares, a nonprofit that provides Kare Bags for families staying at the hospital. The bags include toiletries, coloring books and crayons, games, snacks, and other comforts.
On December 28, 2013, the one-year anniversary of Kaiden's successful surgery, the Gardners and their friends came to the Ronald McDonald House to cook a meal for the families. They've been coming on that date ever since. This year they brought several Kare Bags for the Ronald McDonald Family Room families on behalf of their nonprofit.
Today Kaiden is a happy, thriving little boy. "He's a pistol," Christine says. "When something like this happens to your family, your life changes completely. You realize what's really important."
We have many opportunities for you to help the families of the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland.