When asked for three ways to describe McKayla, her parents were quick to agree that she was vibrant, strong and, above all else, a Daddy’s girl.

McKayla never let her serious illness take the smile from her face. She adored her dad, Justin, who travelled every week between Toronto and his job in the family’s hometown of Windsor, Ont., throughout McKayla’s treatment. The bond they shared was clear to everyone, and McKayla’s face would light up when he arrived at the House each weekend to see her.

When McKayla was born, the Warder family could have never imagined that they would go on to live in Toronto for so long.

Over the years, McKayla’s family stayed at both the old Ronald McDonald House on Gerrard St., as well as our current House located on McCaul St. The longest one-time stay for the family of seven was 555 days.

“We were at RMHC Toronto for almost nine years,” says McKayla’s mom, Rejeanne, “and it truly was our home in Toronto.”

Sadly, in April of 2020, McKayla lost her battle with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) and passed away. She was just nine years old.

For families with seriously ill children, the unfortunate reality is that not every journey has a happy outcome. But, thanks to the incredible compassion of donors like you, there’s a safe place for families to stay together, close to their child’s medical treatment, which helps provide the time and space to share special moments and create lasting memories.

Rejeanne and Justin remember vividly the stress of McKayla’s illness before they were connected with RMHC Toronto. They paid $1,000 to put the whole family up in a hotel for just one week while McKayla started treatment. With five kids, that expense over nine years would have been unmanageable for Rejeanne and Justin – or any family – but, thanks to donors like you, they had RMHC Toronto to rely on.

“Having our kids stay together with Rejeanne at the House took a huge weight off my shoulders,” says Justin. “RMHC Toronto made it possible for me to continue providing for our family while they were in Toronto together.”

The Warder family has been through a lot and, after McKayla’s passing, the close-knit family has had to lean on each other as they process their heart-wrenching loss.

“McKayla was a fighter, and she was strongest when she was surrounded by her family,” says Rejeanne. Now, in their grief, the Warder family still finds strength in being together as they support each other in this next stage of their lives.

It’s been important to the family to find ways to honour McKayla’s memory. One new tradition they’ve started is driving down to Ronald McDonald House in Toronto to donate non-perishable food items on McKayla’s birthday in December.

“It’s been incredibly difficult, but RMHC Toronto gave us years of memories together as a family, times that we’ll never forget,” says Rejeanne. “We’re so grateful to all the donors who made it possible for our family to be together throughout McKayla’s life.”

For families like the Warders, your donation has a life-changing impact. Please give generously today so that families with seriously ill children can stay close when it matters the most.