Danielle Crain has gained perspective in ways she never saw coming.
“The hard I thought I knew before then wasn’t anything,” she said.
Before then – it’s the time measurement forever changing Crain’s outlook and that of families who’ve stayed at the Ronald McDonald House (RMH) of Arkansas following the diagnosis of a critically ill child.
“What we see here is only the tip of the iceberg of what our families have to deal with,” said Janell Mason, CEO with Ronald McDonald House Charities of Arkansas in Little Rock. “We can’t even begin to comprehend what our families experience.”
But what Mason and the Ronald McDonald House team can do is offer those families the comforts of a home away from home while their children receive care at area hospitals. That includes housing, meals, snacks, laundry and more – all at no cost. The RMH of Arkansas is always full, housing 32 families for an average stay of 22 days with 40 more people in shorter-term hotel stays. Eighty-three percent of families the nonprofit serves are considered low-income.
What we see here is only the tip of the iceberg of what our families have to deal with. We can’t even begin to comprehend what our families experience.
Crain, an advisor with Regions’ Private Wealth Management group, is a longtime volunteer with RMH of Arkansas’ Chocolate Fantasy Ball, a fundraiser Regions Bank also financially sponsors. Crain had always been devoted to supporting this worthwhile cause, but that service took on an especially personal meaning beginning in 2022.
As the first son of Danielle and Austin and little brother to 3-year-old Caroline, Carter Crain’s arrival into the world brought the usual excitement and joy babies do.
But quickly, a troubling realization.
“Our doctor leaned over and told us Carter was born without an opening on his bottom,” said Danielle.
Imperforated anus is a condition affecting one in every 5,000 babies that’s most common in boys. The disorder can result in digestive, bowel, bladder, and kidney issues and more, with the body unable to process waste.
That was a very trying time. He had his first surgery less than 24 hours after birth and we couldn’t be there. I held him for the first time when he was nine days old. Danielle Crain
The diagnosis alone was enough. But following Carter’s delivery, Crain also discovered she had tested positive for COVID.
“That was a very trying time,” she recalled. “He had his first surgery less than 24 hours after birth and we couldn’t be there. I held him for the first time when he was nine days old. That’s just one of those things you put in God’s hands.”
Mason, who met Crain years before she began volunteering with RMH, saw her flourish in the face of incredible adversity.
“Danielle has always had a heart for children, but your heart swells even bigger when you have a sick child and you have to deal with the day-to-day,” she said. “She carried it with such grace. And while she understood our mission before, what happened with her son really fanned her flame.”
Crain credits an army of support with helping her remain strong.
“Our family and friends were amazing,” she said. “We basically didn’t leave the house for three months and my parents essentially lived at our house for eight weeks. Regions was also phenomenal with my maternity leave. You can do hard things if you just lean into your support system, and for us, our faith.”
The Crain family’s health care journey has made Danielle appreciate the support provided by the Ronald McDonald House of Arkansas all the more.
“The impact that you can make for people in a very vulnerable moment is just immeasurable,” she said. “Just offering families a soft place to land and a warm meal, it’s really life-changing for people who are struggling. Once you see that, it’s hard not to get involved.”
It’s been a long road. But four surgeries later, Carter is now thriving.
“He’s very small, but he’s meeting all of his development milestones,” said Crain. “He’s very active, he’s walking, he’s doing all the things a one-and-a-half-year-old should be doing.”
It’s positive news she’s thrilled to tell to help encourage other families.
“We share our story, we’re an open book,” said Crain. “It’s obviously not the path we thought we were going to walk, but by the grace of God, we have a healthy little boy. We were the beneficiaries of a lot of people and support, and we want to be that for other people.”
For Mason, conveying similar stories of hope is one of her role’s top perks.
We share our story, we’re an open book. Danielle Crain
“Our donors can’t be here every day to meet the families and see the rollercoaster ride they endure,” said Mason. “Truly getting to know the families we serve and then being able to share their personal stories with our donors is a gift.”
Another gift? The support RMH of Arkansas receives from supporters like Crain and Regions.
“I always say that the only way we are able to support families is made possible by the generosity of our donors and our volunteers,” said Mason. “They just make it happen. Danielle is always thinking about what she can do to help. And our corporate support from companies like Regions is an endorsement in the community that puts a stamp of approval and meaning on our mission.”
A mission offering the lasting gifts of support and perspective for all who enter and exit its doors.
See how a Second Regions Associate is Supporting the Ronald McDonald House
Regions Commercial Banking relationship manager Kyle Sederstrom has volunteered with the Ronald McDonald House Fort Worth (RMHFW) in Texas for a decade. We recently caught up with Sederstrom to learn more.
Tell us how you’re involved with RMHFW.
I’m part of the Red Shoe Society, which is the young professionals group/junior board raising awareness of RMHFW’s mission, participating in fundraising activities and connecting with families staying at the house.I’m also part of the Wild Game Dinner Committee which raised more than $400,000 last year. Regions serves as an event sponsor.
What’s your favorite part of volunteering with RMHFW?
Serving meals to the families. Not only is it a great teambuilding connection among volunteers, but you get to interact with those you are directly impacting. The compassion and care families show is truly emotional and inspiring. You see the best in people despite difficult circumstances.
What have you learned about yourself through your volunteerism?
It’s a humbling and grounding experience to volunteer at the house. It always offers perspective and appreciation for the life I get to live. My volunteering is the least I can do to help.