28 Feb Ronald McDonald House Reduces Stress for Schmidt Family
“To see the little boy Callen is now is amazing, compared to the tiny fighter covered in cords and wires that he was,” says mom, Kearstin Schmidt.
Callen, 3, from Rome, Georgia, was just 5 weeks old when he was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect. What Kearstin and dad, Jake, thought would be a quick trip to the emergency room turned into weeks at Egleston.
“We did not know much about heart defects or what they meant,” Kearstin says, adding they were “terrified” after learning Callen needed open heart surgery.
The Schmidts stayed at our Ronald McDonald House near Egleston during Callen’s lengthy recovery Callen after his surgery. “Callen’s treatment would have been a much more stressful experience without Atlanta RMHC,” Kearstin says.
Kearstin and Jake treasured being able to spend time with their older son, Cannon, after long days at the hospital by Callen’s side. “Atlanta RMHC provided us with a place to give Cannon attention,” Kearstin says.
“All aspects of Ronald McDonald House… the location, the people and the spaces made it easier for Jake and I to focus on our family and Callen’s journey,” Kearstin says.
Cannon loved our playroom and called it “the best playroom ever.” From play dates with Cannon to family dinners, the Schmidts made many memories at our House. “Being here is so special because of how close it is to the hospital, and knowing it is only a short walk away gives a parent so much peace,” Kearstin says.
Recently, Callen enjoyed his first sleepover with his friend, Levi Lansdell, 3, at our House near Scottish Rite. Levi was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia and stays at our House during his treatments. “The circumstances around why Callen gets to be here are not what we ever dreamed of but we treasure the time together that Atlanta RMHC has given us,” Kearstin says.
Kearstin and Karli Lansdell, Levi’s mom, have been friends since childhood. “We graduated from the same hometown college, got married at the same family farm, and had babies at the same time,” Kearstin says.
Their Atlanta RMHC experience has brought them even closer together. “Now we understand each other more than we could ever explain,” Kearstin says. “Knowing that Levi’s family has the same place to go is such a blessing.”
The Schmidts were inspired to give back and started “Cookies with Santa,” an annual tradition that collects toys for the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, Atlanta RMHC, and the Aflac Cancer Unit.
“What started as a small circle of friends making a fun day for our kids turned into more than 80 children donating toys in 2022,” Kearstin says. The 2022 event was held in honor of Levi when their community came together and gave back during the holidays.