In Honor of Chase

Mark-Belinda-and-Chase

“Because it was here for me.”

That’s why Mark Imel started volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House in September 2009. His continued motivation: paying tribute to his lost young son.

Mark and his wife, Belinda, stayed at both the Riley and Limestone Street locations for a total of five weeks when Belinda gave birth to their son Chase in June 2008.

Mark and Belinda knew ahead of time Chase was going to face several medical conditions when he was born including spina bifida and an underdeveloped right lung.

At one point, he was put on a ventilator and a feeding tube but was able to come off the ventilator after heart surgery. Chase was released to go home with his parents shortly after to allow him to grow before his next surgery.

Although Chase was growing and getting healthier as planned, he passed away in August of that same year. He was just two months old.

“It was amazing how much he went through,” Mark said.

Now, Mark devotes every other Saturday to volunteer at the House, and he does whatever  needs to be done, whether it’s cleaning or restocking the pantry. In addition, he and Belinda are sponsoring a room for a full year through the House’s Share-A-Night program.

“I would have never thought of doing this,” Mark said. “I mean, it changes your whole perspective on life, what’s important, what’s not important. I just really have more appreciation for life and for what other people go through.”

Although Mark has been volunteering for almost a year, he still struggles some days, but gets through it inspired by Chase’s strength.

“It’s hard … some Saturdays, some days are just rough but he did it. He went through what he did so I can muster through my time, because I’m doing it for him.”