The Willis Family Story

Sara Willis, 14, was enjoying another chorus class at school when she was struck with unexplainable dizziness, blurred vision, and a headache. Her parents acted quickly, taking their daughter to an eye doctor who recommended that Sara underwent an MRI to explain her symptoms. Just days later, the MRI showed a mass on Sara's brain and she was promptly scheduled for a brain biopsy. Nothing could have prepared the Willis family for the news they received after the biopsy. Sara was diagnosed with a bi-focal pituitary pineal germinoma- a form of brain cancer. 

"Sara went through 12 weeks of chemotherapy at home in Virginia and then our oncologist told us to go to The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for radiation, so we packed up and came to Philadelphia," says Angie, Sara's mother. "For five weeks, my daughter underwent radiation and it made her extremely sick, but we had the comfort of the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House and it made our lives a lot easier during that trying time." While the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House provides day-to-day essentials such as transportation, meals, a clean room, and activities to all of its guests, families also greatly benefit from the sense of community throughout the House. "I hate the idea that there are other families going through what we went through, but my wish is that every family has the opportunity to stay at a Ronald McDonald House if they are enduring a medical hardship like my family was. As a mother, the support of the other moms was fantastic and much-needed," says Angie. 

Now Sara and her mother are home in Virginia, but they hold on to the memories of their time at the House. Memories like nights spent with the therapy dogs, participating in events such as the Annual "Change the Luck of a Child" Phone Bank, meeting new friends, and spending time together as mother and daughter. The love that Sara's mother has for her is both inspiring and a reminder that a parent will go to great lengths to do whatever is necessary to help their child in need; and the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House is privileged to have played a small role in helping make Sara and Angie's medical journey a little easier.


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