Beth Rehberg was not overly concerned when the doctors decided to induce her son Tucker’s birth on his actual birth date. It seemed like things were proceeding normally, until the doctors told her and husband Jason that their new baby had an infection which required him to be transferred to All Children’s Hospital (ACH) in St. Petersburg.
The Rehbergs live in Ellenton, Florida, not far away from ACH, but too far to be away from their sick newborn. Beth and Jason were first-time parents and were so scared. Like many families whose children are taken to ACH, they had nowhere to stay nearby. After a few long days in the chairs of the NICU, the exhausted parents received a visit from Lynn, the RMH family coordinator. She told them that she had a hot meal and room ready for them just steps from the hospital. They cried when she told them that this would cost them nothing and was available for as long as they needed.
For thousands of parents like the Rehbergs, the Ronald McDonald House becomes a home-away-from-home. Volunteers provide smiling faces and hugs after a long day in the NICU. Local organizations serve hot meals every night and prepare late night snacks for parents returning from the midnight shift. It is the little things, like clean laundry and library books, that help moms and dads make it through the day.
It has been nine months since Tucker left the hospital a healthy baby boy, but thousands of families at ACH and other hospitals across the country will need the services provided by the Ronald McDonald House this year. To give back and help RMH care for other families in their time of need, the Rehbergs started the Tucker Rehberg “Real Men Wear Bowties” fundraiser. The fundraiser coincides with Tucker’s first birthday, and the goal is to raise $5,000 for Ronald McDonald Charities of Tampa Bay to purchase items for the needs lists of the four Houses. The bowtie connection is clear when you see little Tucker; either he loves wearing them or Beth loves dressing him in them. Either way, it has become his “signature look.”
In Tucker’s honor, we are asking you to celebrate Father’s Day by posting a picture of yourself or your little one wearing a bow tie to our Facebook page (rmhctampabay) with the hashtags #realmenwearbowties #forRMHC, and to make a pledge of $10 to RMHC Tampa Bay in honor of the fathers who have made a difference in your life.
Our houses operate solely on the donations of individuals like you so that no family is ever required to contribute for their stay. While some families stay for only a day, others will stay for months or even years, as they return for treatments and surgeries. It takes a lot of money and supplies to take care of 2,000 families each year.
Keeping families close to their sick or hurt child provides them with welcome relief in sometimes overwhelming situations. In Tucker’s family’s words, “We hope that you will consider donating to our very special home-away-from-home.”