One year ago, the Ronald McDonald House opened its new home away from home to families, giving them a brand new, handicapped accessible place to spend time and heal.
It is benefitting families like the Stiles from the North Country. 14-year-old Alyson Stiles has spent much of her childhood in the hospital. "When I was younger, I knew that I would always have to go to Syracuse for check-ups. I didn't really know what for," she said.
For as long as she can remember, illness has been part of her life. She was first diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia at just 14-months-old. She went into remission, but the cancer came back at 11. It went away again and returned from a third time this past August.
Her father Brian has been by her side every step of the way. He has never stopped fighting for his little girl. Through it all, they have relied on the services of the Ronald McDonald House. They are among the beneficiaries of the new $6 million home away from home on East Genesee Street.
Executive Director Beth Trunfio worked hard to make this new home a reality. It is handicapped accessible with an elevator, family den, child's play room, teen room and fitness center. There are 25 new guest rooms complete with private baths. "When families are going through medical crisis, it's important that they have their space, Trunfio said.
In the shared living spaces, families gather around the kitchen to talk, share and heal. "Really the most magical thing that happens here is that the families bond and they help each other in a way that no one else really can," she said.
From the teen room, Alyson uses video games as an escape. It is a way to forget about her illness if only for a moment. "I met a little girl..she wanted to play video games with me on the Wii U."
She is surrounded by her family and new friends in the house that love built, taking it day by day as she hopes for one simple wish in this new year: good health.
Alyson is among the thousands of people waiting for a bone marrow transplant. Coming up Friday on NBC3 News and CBS5 News at 5pm, you will hear why she had so much trouble finding a match and how you could help save her life.