Young girl heading home after battling leukemia at Ronald McDonald House

WILMINGTON, Delaware (CBS) – On Thursday we present our 13th Annual Ronald McDonald House Charities Telethon. We call it Give a Little Love and we’re raising money to help the four Ronald McDonald Houses in the Philadelphia area.

Families come to the Ronald McDonald Homes when their children need medical care. And while that can be an extremely stressful time, many parents say they smile when they arrive.

It’s a monumental day for Emma Pardees and her mother, Paola Garcia.

Emma rings the bell at the Ronald McDonald House of Delaware. When a child rings this bell, it’s cause for celebration because they’re going home.

And for Emma and her mother, it means returning home after a year and nine months at home.

“When Emma was 3 years old, she was diagnosed with leukemia, so she started treatment in Ecuador,” Garcia said. “We needed to find more complex treatment and we found Nemours Hospital and it was a miracle for us and we also got the opportunity to stay at Ronald McDonald House. We have battled the disease for six years but we are so happy, right now that Emma had a bone marrow transplant 15 months ago and is doing well.”

Good enough to drive home, but Paola says they’ll never forget their stay at the Ronald McDonald House.


“It’s like a second home and when I see the house I smile even though I’ve had difficult times,” said Paola. “My experience here has been wonderful because of all the people who work here, all the volunteers. When you have your child under treatment, it’s a bitter pill to swallow. You wish the person battling the disease were you, not your child. When you have a place to stay and forget about other things and you can focus on the treatment instead of other things, that’s a relief.”

Emma and her mother spent their last day at the Ronald Mcdonald House enjoying all the fun the house has to offer including the games room and playground. They played video games and even got popsicles from the kitchen.

“During this time we have learned that happiness is not a goal, it is an everyday choice and we try to smile every day despite the different situations and what I admire about my daughter is that she smiled even when she was in pain .”

For now, however, Emma is thriving and getting better every day.

“I feel good, I feel great,” Emma said.

And she will never forget the time she spent in the house that love built.

“It’s a beautiful place, he’s been so kind to us while we’re staying here and we’re so grateful for the house,” Emma said.

“When I see this house I smile because the happier memories are more than the sad memories we had and for me this house is in my heart,” said Paolo.

The Ronald McDonald House is truly a home away from home for so many families. Please give a little love to children like Emma.

Our fundraiser is this Thursday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on CBS3 and CBS News Philadelphia.

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