Every year on their daughter Ellie’s birthday, Jeff and Katie Chamness and members of their extended family come bright and early to the Ronald McDonald House to serve a pancake breakfast for families staying at the House.
The Chamnesses stayed at the House when Ellie came into their lives back in 2005. Their little girl suffered from numerous medical issues, and the House was there when they needed it. Ellie was only 15 months old when she died, and the family since has returned every year to prepare breakfast in her memory.
“Katie and I talked for a long time about what we would do, ‘How do we pay the House back?’” Jeff said. “We wanted to do something to keep Ellie’s memory alive and to help the people here.”
In addition to serving breakfast, Jeff and Katie sponsor a room at the House through the Share-A-Night program, enabling the House to serve all families regardless of their ability to pay. They also put together a team to participate in the annual Run for Ronald, a benefit for the House sponsored by the Institute of Real Estate Management.
“We’re doing it for ourselves as much as we’re doing it for other people because it’s a way for us to remember Ellie,” Katie said. “I kind of pictured wanting to do something like we’re doing now, but never really knew the path and the pieces. It seems like its all fallen into place.”
Six years ago Jeff, who is a national account executive with the Dr Pepper Snapple Group, had a professional relationship with the Ronald McDonald House. When Katie gave birth to Ellie, that business relationship became personal. Today, Jeff serves on the House’s Board of Directors and his company continues its involvement with the House through special event sponsorships and donations.
“It’s very important to us that we help ensure the legacy of the House,” Jeff said. “I can’t imagine what we would have gone through without the House. I don’t want anyone to have to experience that.”