Allie’s parents found a home-away-from-home at the Park Avenue Ronald McDonald House
On November 26, 2004, Laurie Drees gave birth to her daughter, Allie, at St. Anthony’s hospital in Effingham, Illinois. Immediately after delivery, little Allie – weighing nearly two pounds – was air-lifted to SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis alone. Laurie and her husband Daren were close behind.
Laurie and Daren needed a place to stay near their daughter while being over 100 miles away from their home in Teutopolis, a small town near Effingham. Thanks to the Park Avenue Ronald McDonald House, they were at Allie’s side during this incredibly difficult next four months. In March 2005, Allie had grown strong enough to head home.
“It wasn’t a hotel. It was a home atmosphere with different living areas. If we couldn’t be at our own home, it was the next best thing,” says Laurie.
Now, Allie is a music-loving, high school student and talented multi-instrumentalist. Despite her visual challenges, Allie recently passed her driving test and will be working a summer job at the local deli.
“Once she wants something, Allie sets a goal and achieves it,” says Laurie.
At RMHC, we understand the importance of a sense of normalcy during difficult times. That’s why we try to help connect families going through similar situations. The Drees family made many connections during their stay – both with families and staff members. Laurie and Daren experienced many late nights at the hospital and at the House, which gave them a chance to connect with other families staying with us. Laurie reminisces chatting with a family whose child was waiting for a transplant.
“My ‘saving grace’ while staying there was the nightly check-in with one of the staff members,” says Laurie. “Every night, a member of our staff would personally check in to make sure I was okay.”
Laurie and Daren felt so comforted at RMHC that they decided to find a way to give back by collecting and recycling tab tops. The Drees family called upon their local community to help them collect as many tabs as possible- they even started a tab top collection tradition with schools in the surrounding area. In May, Allie and her family collected over 1,222 pounds of tab tops and dropped them off at our 2021 Tab Top Pandemonium event claiming the title for first place.
We are so glad we could be there for the Drees Family when they needed it most. Thanks to tab top collectors, like Laurie and Daren, families continue to find a home-away-from-home in St. Louis at the Ronald McDonald House.