Chiefs defensive lineman help Ronald McDonald House families escape with a day of fun
SEPTEMBER 04, 2018 10:24 PM,
UPDATED SEPTEMBER 04, 2018 09:29 PM
Somer Wiltse’s day started at 8:15 a.m. when she dropped off two of her six kids at the Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired.
The pair of 2-year-olds, Keisha and Neema, had four appointments between them, all with specialists working to help them adapt to their limited eyesight and other medical conditions.
But Wiltse couldn’t stay there long. She had to run over to the hospital with her other 2-year-old daughter for a battery of appointments that stem from a wide range of health problems.
In all, Wiltse juggled eight appointments Tuesday morning — and those were just for her foster children. Her three oldest children were with a sitter, enjoying a rare morning at the Great Wolf Lodge water park, away from the sterile doctors’ offices.
Wiltse and her husband have six kids: three older biological children ages 10, 9 and 7, and three 2-year-old foster daughters. They’re also in the process of finalizing the adoption of one of the foster daughters. While her three oldest are healthy, the trio of 2-year-olds are battling numerous medical obstacles, including a liver transplant, cancer, and brain injury.
With her husband training in California in preparation for next year’s army deployment, most days Wiltse cares for all six children with the help of a sitter, balancing the medical needs of the youngest ones with the home schooling of the three oldest.
It’s an exhausting routine, one made even more difficult with the two-and-a-half hour commute from their home in Fort Riley, Kansas. But with the help of the Ronald McDonald House, an 87-room lodging and support center for families of children with serious medical conditions, Wiltse and her kids have a place to stay when they need it most.
“They’re giving time out of their day to just uplift their spirits and give us a little mental break from the stress of all the appointments and maybe not getting very good news,” Wiltse said. “I think it just gives us a little break, and it helps the kids have a little bit of fun. That’s what today is all about. It’s for the kids. They sit through appointments every week. Long days. They do their home schooling in the appointments. It’s the only way I can do what I do. By homeschooling and the Ronald McDonald House.”
“It’s hard to overstate how important Red Friday is to us,” said Tami Greenberg, CEO of the Ronald McDonald House Charities. “It’s an enormous day for us for the Ronald McDonald House Charities in terms of fundraising. It’s also a really important day, it helps us tell the stories of our families for people around Kansas City to hear about what it’s like to be a family at Ronald McDonald House.”
After signing autographs and posing for pictures, the players divided up into two teams with the kids and participated in a handful of Minute To Win It-style challenges. There was a relay race balancing an egg in a spoon, a water balloon toss, a flag toss and a race transferring marshmallows to different bowls using a straw. And when the two teams were tied at the end of it, Nnadi squared off with Jenkins in a final tie-breaking event. The two were tasked with finding a single gummy worm in a pie tin full of whipped cream.
Nnadi found the worm in a matter of seconds.
“The second I got here, they were like, ‘Oh, we’ve got a pie-eating contest,’” Nnadi said. “They’re like, ‘Oh, rookie, you’ve gotta do it.’ I’m like man, why I’ve got to be eating the whipped cream? They just wanted the money shot.
Chiefs defensive linemen Derrick Nnadi and Jarvis Jenkins raced to find the gummy worm in the whipped cream as a part of the Chiefs’ event at the Ronald McDonald House on Tuesday afternoon.
Earlier, Wiltse’s 7-year-old, Haakon, nailed Nnadi with a water balloon after the competition and then chased the big man down with another.
“He had his eyes set,” Nnadi said, laughing. “I had to run. He was chasing me up and down the stairs.”
The event was geared for the kids, but by the end of it, everyone was smiling and laughing.
“It’s an escape for everybody,” Greenberg said. “It’s an escape for the Chiefs players. They were having fun. You could tell. And it’s an escape for our families, to not think for a minute about the hospital, about the surgery, about the IV, about the port, about the challenges of living with a serious illness. It’s just about having fun. It’s about childhood. It’s about having a super cool opportunity that you wouldn’t get if you weren’t at the Ronald McDonald House.
“We talk about staying at the Ronald McDonald House; it’s a place where families can kind of refuel to face whatever is happening at the hospital, and I think there was a lot of refueling that happened today.”
Brooke Pryor covers the Kansas City Chiefs and NFL for The Star.