SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) -The Ronald McDonald house is critical for families who have children in the NICU, but COVID-19 has made it impossible for the charity to extend its outreach.
The CEO of Ronald McDonald Charities of Central Illinois, Kelly Thompson, says a measure was put into place to protect families that were already staying at the house.
"When the shelter in place mandate started, with the governor and also around the global, Ronald McDonald houses had to suspend the intake of new family registration," Thompson says.
One of the families that was already staying at the house before COVID-19 hit was the Clodfelter family.
Ian Clodfelter has been in the NICU for nearly 60 days. His parents, Scott and Natalie, are staying right across the street at the Ronald McDonald house.
"Our son was born 12 weeks early. He was born on Leap Day. He's been very, very ill," Natalie says. "The staff has treated us like family. This has been the worst time of our life. This is not something I'd ever wish for another family."
Scott and Natalie live in Forsyth, and they say it would be very difficult to see their son if they weren't able to stay at the Ronald McDonald house.
"It'd be a lot, driving back and forth from Forsyth to Springfield, spending a lot of money on gas," Scott says.
For some families though, Thompson says that's the new reality.
"On the day that the COVID pandemic hit, we had over ten families staying with us and now, we are down to four families," Thompson says. "We would love to serve every single family right now that needs it but because we need to protect everyone that is in the program and their children; we have this mandate in place."
Scott and Natalie say this is very unfortunate but understand why this measure was taken.
"[Ian's] one of many [babies] that are on a ventilator, or that have breathing problems, which is exactly what this virus is attacking," Scott says. "It is absolutely paramount that we are able to mitigate that risk for these children."
Although COVID-19 has added more stress, the Clodfelter's say they feel lucky to be able to visit their son each day.
"Until you need it, you may not even know this is here; but this place is very important," Natalie says. "Whenever your child is born, and you don't expect this, it's not something you can prepare for. It's amazing you have this resource available."
The Ronald McDonald house received a $19,000 grant from the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln, which will help provide meals to the families. Thompson says the house is also in need of things such as cleaning supplies. Anyone interested in donating can find their wish list on their website.