Kennamarie’s Story

Jessica Helm and her husband went to a routine doctor appointment in January 2011, and the medical staff said they couldn’t find a stomach in their baby. The baby was diagnosed with esophageal atresia, which is a birth defect in which the esophagus doesn’t develop properly. The family checked into Ronald McDonald House Charities of Kansas City to await the arrival of their sweet baby girl. Their baby, Kennamarie, entered the world on March 28, 4 weeks earlier than her due date. She quickly had a surgery to bring her stomach up to her right clavicle since she had no esophagus. They were featured in one of our first videos at our gala, Red Shoe Shindig, in 2011.

Kennamarie had several hospital stays as a baby, and the Helms left to continue treatment at Boston Children’s Hospital. While she wasn’t expected to live over a year, she’s defied all odds but unfortunately has had to undergo numerous surgeries, admissions and blood transfusions in her almost 13 years. The family settled into home in Ponca City, Oklahoma, and live as normal of a life as they are able to between hospital visits. Kennamarie attends a private school and loves music.


“Overall she is doing well. She sings and plays piano … we try to do activities that are easy on her body,” says Jessica.

We are thrilled to see the Helms visit when they are in Kansas City for her immunology visits. More recently, they stopped by and visited the place they called home for so many months.

“We’ve been to several Ronald McDonald Houses across the country. Kansas City is a gold standard. None of them compare to the community of support you receive in Kansas City,” said Jessica.

She also commented that while the campus and Houses have changed and added on, the care of the people and the mission are still the same.

“Ronald McDonald House does a great job taking care of the caregivers so they can take care of their loved one. It has been a journey, but Ronald McDonald House has made it easier for us. We are so thankful for all they’ve done and continue to do,” Jessica said.