05/31/2013 11:53 am ET Updated Jul 31, 2013


Webster's Dictionary defines the word "survivor" this way: remain alive or in existence, outlive or outlast, to continue to function or prosper, to remain alive after the death of someone, to continue to exist or live after a traumatic experience.

As I look back over the first six months of the year a few things strike me. First the number of traumatic events that continue to happen around the world, one of the most traumatic being the bombings in Boston. Like most traumatic events, heroes emerged. The media bombarded us with pictures of the event and what awes me were the heroes that stepped in and helped. The man who held pressure to someone's wound, or the runner who fell to the ground when the bombs went off and was helped back up, or the man who moved the barriers and other debris off wounded spectators. A lot of the people that were running in the marathon were running and raising money for a charity.

One such runner was Jamie McCarthy. Jamie was running the marathon for the Boston Ronald McDonald House. Jamie is an everyday person running an event not only for the challenge of it, but also raising money for her favorite charity. I am guessing that no one who was running expected something horrible to happen. There is truly no explanation for such events and all we can do is hope for justice. Everyone involved in this tragedy is a survivor in some shape or form. The biggest survivors are obviously the people who were hurt, in a sense the runners and rescuers are survivors and will have to learn to live with the images of what they experienced and felt.

Another traumatic event was the aftermath of the kidnapping of the three girls in Cleveland. A hero emerged when one of the girls escaped and ended up on the doorstep of someone who cared enough to get the other women to safety. This man did not want anything in return and told the authorities to give the reward money to the women. While I would like to think that most people would have been that upstanding, the truth is not many would. Thankfully, these women have been rescued and hopefully they will get the help they will need to process and heal from the 10 years of horrors they survived. They are true survivors. Again, everyday people surviving and doing extraordinary things.

A great place to see survivors is to visit a Ronald McDonald House. Within the walls of a Ronald McDonald House you will find children and teens fighting for their lives. These children and teens are true survivors in every sense of the word. They endure countless hours of being put through all sorts of medical procedures, surgeries, chemotherapies and other treatments that do many horrible things to their bodies all in hopes of curing whatever disease or ailment they have. As an adult I don't think I would be the survivor that these children are. I would imagine I would curl up in a ball and feel sorry for myself, while the children and teens I see daily do sometimes question why me, they are usually surviving and sometimes thriving. They aren't children and teens who have a horrible disease, but children and teens who are surviving their horrible disease. They are living their life in their new "normal" state and doing it with courage, honor and strength.

One of these survivors is Hillary. Hillary was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) in 2008. She was 15 at the time. In 2011 Hillary relapsed with Non- Hodgkins Lymphoma and in 2013 Hillary relapsed with a different form of ALL. This young lady's life was disrupted during high school and shortly after she began college, it was disrupted again. Hillary is a true example of a survivor. She is living life despite horrible circumstances. If you were to ask Hillary what it is like, she would tell you that she has this and that she is going to be just fine. Hillary's next hurdle will be a bone marrow transplant where bone marrow will be taken from a complete stranger and injected into Hillary. Hillary has NEVER asked why me and has handled her cancer with grace, dignity and dare I say style. Hillary wants to go onto medical school and go into medical research where she wants to help find cures for childhood cancers of all types. Hillary is a survivor.

I could tell you story after story of the survivors I see daily as the Director of House Operations for the Ronald McDonald House of Memphis, but instead I am going to challenge you to visit a Ronald McDonald House for yourself. I can assure that you will walk out a different person, a person who is in awe of what children face on a daily basis and how much they survive during horrific times in their lives.

For more information about the Ronald McDonald House of Memphis visit our website at or to find a Ronald McDonald House in your area go to