Meet the 2012 Season of Giving family

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Wichita

STORY BY Karen Long

Caden Konecny acts like a typical 5-year-old, playing with Transformers and his two dogs, Bailey and Roscoe. He loves Batman, The Avengers and Spiderman and is funny as only a kid can be. But under Caden's T shirt lies his "zipper" a scar from an open-heart surgery when he was just a few months old.

Because of a rare congenital heart defect called Truncus Arteriosus Type II, Caden needed a complex surgery to repair a hole in his heart, and was referred to Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. His mom and dad, Ashlea and Paul, temporarily moved from Wichita into a Ronald McDonald House across the street from the hospital during the months their son was undergoing treatment.

For a total of three months Ashlea and Paul worried and waited while their son underwent multiple surgeries, endured an hour of CPR and was attached to a heart lung machine for over a week. But a few things they didn't have to worry about: where to sleep, what to eat or how to navigate traffic in an unfamiliar city.

"It was almost like a home away from home," says Ashlea of their experience in the Ronald McDonald House. "You're able to cook dinner for your family using food provided in the pantry. When my dad came in from Denver with his wife and my brother, we were able to go to the game room and play Ping-Pong for a little bit just to get away from the hospital for an hour."

What would the Konecnys have done without the Ronald McDonald House during those critical months of caring for their son? "I honestly don't know," Ashlea admits. Their nearest extended family lived in the suburbs, an hour drive each way from the hospital.

Today as Caden develops his mind in kindergarten, his body is slowly outgrowing the donor conduit that connects the right side of his heart to his lungs and that means he"ll need two or three more surgeries before he reaches adulthood. Doctors will need to "unzip" the zipper scar in his chest to give his conduit an upgrade.

Once again the family will rely on the support of the Ronald McDonald House in Kansas City including playroom areas and services designed especially for siblings, because this trip will include 4-year-old brother, Cameron.

But Ashlea hopes to put that off for several more years. "Caden's been on annual checkups; we just had one a week ago and he's doing well. It's another year before we go back, so that's really good news."

Illuminating Hope: Lights of Love tree lighting ceremony at Bradley Fair

In the 10 years that KAKE co-anchor Susan Peters has been the emcee for Bradley Fair's tree lighting festivities, her favorite part of the ceremony has never been in doubt: she always anticipates interviewing the Ronald McDonald House Season of Giving family. "Well these stories are heartbreaking many of them come from Western Kansas and have no place to live while their child is sick. Many of them don't know whether their child is going to live or not."

This year photos with Santa and entertainment by the Collegiate Madrigals starts at 5:30pm on November 17, with the tree lighting at 6:00pm sharp. A requested $5 donation for photos with Santa benefits the Ronald McDonald House. After the tree is lit it becomes the starting point for carriage rides, compliments of Bradley Fair, where riders will relax in a horse drawn buggy for a jaunt around the six miles of lights lining the shopping center.

"Giving is what the season is about anyway," says Peters, "so when you can be at such a festive occasion and also give money to families in need, you're doing everything that Christmas is all about."

Lights of Love

Nov.17, 5:30pm
Bradley Fair plaza

 <<      <        1  2       >      >> 
live  |  shop  |  dine  |  play  |  home  |  magazine  |  calendar  |  about  |  your turn