Emmalee Kratz and the Young Family

Emmalee Kratz may be a novice fundraiser, but when the 7th grader asked her classmates at Center Point Urbana Middle School for donations for the Ronald McDonald House of Iowa City, she pulled out the stops: creating flyers, making morning announcements on the PA system, and sharing PowerPoint slide shows with teachers and friends. In the end, Emmalee raised $950 for the House!

Emmalee has a soft spot for the House. Her little cousin, Clayton, who was diagnosed with a heart defect called cardiomyopathy shortly after birth in August 2019, stayed at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital for four weeks. Clayton’s parents, Steffany and Isaac Young of Ankeny, stayed at the House during that time, and for that, Emmalee is forever grateful.

The Young Family & Emmalee

“My aunt and uncle needed to be close to Clayton and the Ronald McDonald House made that happen,” said Emmalee. “I wanted to do something to help.”

Clayton’s health scare started about two weeks after he was born, when he contracted viral meningitis. “The virus targeted his heart and only about twenty-five percent of his heart was functioning,” says Steffany. “At one point there was talk of a potential heart transplant. It was all very scary.”

Due to the severity of his condition, Clayton was airlifted from Des Moines to Iowa City so that he could receive specialized medical care. His parents traveled from Des Moines to Iowa City by car, bringing their two other children—Brynlee (6) and Davis (4)—with them. Although Emmalee’s mother, who is Steffany’s sister, cared for Brynlee and Davis during the week, the children stayed with their parents at the Ronald McDonald House on weekends.

“It was wonderful to be able to spend time as a family again: eating dinner together and being whole again made a difficult time much easier on us,” says Steffany. “We’d wake up together, have breakfast, and the kids would go play on the playground in the backyard. The Ronald McDonald House was truly a home for us.”

Knowing how much the Ronald McDonald House helped her family, Emmalee decided to share their story with her school friends. She motivated 6th, 7th and 8th graders to make donations with the promise of extra activity time for the class that raised the most money.

“The hardest part was getting the word out about the fundraiser,” says Emmalee. “But I had great support from the school secretary and teachers. Having a personal connection to the Ronald McDonald House really helped.”

And although Emmalee’s 7th grade class didn’t bring in the most donations, Emmalee was not disappointed. The money she raised will be used to provide a family in need with meals, toiletries, and a free place to stay while their child is in the hospital.

“The Ronald McDonald House helps so many families,” says Emmalee. “They helped my family, and in a way, I like to think that I’m helping, too.”