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HOMBURG, Germany — When Naja Cook’s 7-year-old son was diagnosed with a brain tumor, she didn’t want to leave his bedside — never mind making the hourlong drive each day from Baumholder to the Homburg hospital.

An intensive care unit nurse recommended she talk to the people at the nearby Ronald McDonald House.

"It was very surprising to hear it was here," Cook said.

The charitable organization provides housing and other amenities to families of seriously ill children receiving treatment at nearby hospitals. It is known throughout the United States for its good deeds and plastic houses filled with leftover change from Big Macs, but isn’t as visible in Germany.

"We still get people ringing the door bell asking for hamburgers," said Stefanie Doss, the director of Homburg’s Ronald McDonald house.

Three American families are staying at the complex now. Doss said that several American families, most with connections to the nearby military bases, will stay with them throughout the year.

For Cook, it meant being right next door to her son while he underwent two difficult surgeries.

"Everything that you have at home is right here," she said. "It’s much less stressful to know that you have a place to come to."

Ayecee McCaw, an active-duty airman based at Ramstein, agrees. She is staying there while her year-old son has surgery on his back.

"Being at a hospital with a baby is stressful, especially when your spouse is deployed," she said. "They made it much, much easier."

About 1,200 families have stayed in the 15 apartments since the facility opened in 2005. They are not charged a penny. Instead, the place runs on donations, such as the more than $2,000 given to it by the Canadian American Lodge on Wednesday.

The lodge, which has about 900 members living in Germany, also bought them a high-definition TV set and, much to the delight of the children, filled the gumball machine with more than 30 pounds of jelly beans. The members, many whom are retired or active servicemembers as well as civilian base employees, toured the building and got a firsthand look at the room that they have sponsored for one year.

"You see some pretty heartbreaking things here," said Grady Adams, director of the lodge as well as manager of the Lagerhoff in Baumholder. "It takes some special people to work here."

Besides her husband, a sergeant with Headquarters and Headquarters Company in Baumholder, Cook said she turns to the Ronald McDonald house staff for support. "[Doss] is so sweet and encouraging," she said. "At times like these you need someone like that."


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