Members of the Chicago Red Stars football team visit Oak Lawn Ronald McDonald House as part of season-long commitment

Advocate Children’s Hospital patients and their families staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Oak Lawn traded treatment time for fun Thursday with players from the Chicago Red Stars, a professional women’s soccer club based in Bridgeview.

Players Rachel Hill, Sarah Griffith and Jill Aguilara treated kids to cookie baking, a pizza party and soccer drills, all to celebrate the Red Stars’ season-long commitment to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana.

Ruth Anne Renaud, vice president of marketing and communications for the Ronald McDonald House chapter, said they also received a $5,000 grant from the team, with Hill leading the effort.

“Today they have been baking cookies with our families and they are throwing a pizza party for the families that are here and the alumni families,” Renaud said. “So Rachel is leading some soccer drills. She has been amazing.”

The Ronald McDonald House provides a home away from home for parents while their children receive treatment and hospitalization at various children’s hospitals. According to the charity, they house 172 families a night in their five houses in the area.

“It’s amazing, such an amazing organization,” Hill said. “The fact that they can provide families with a home away from home when they are going through difficult times is unreal, and I love the way they put so much importance on families.”

Sitting next to Hill at the pizza party was Natalie Jorgensen, 14, of Poplar Grove. She was a patient at Advocate Children’s Hospital when she was 9 years old due to seizure surgeries. She said having the Ronald McDonald House was a great comfort to her and her parents.

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“Having a place to stay while I was doing my therapy to take a break, play some games, read a book, it meant a lot to us,” Jorgensen said.

Two other Red Star players helped lead soccer drills on a park field next to the house, kicking soccer balls into a giant inflatable target that resembles a dartboard.

“We can still go into the community and give back,” said Sarah Griffith, a forward midfielder. “These kids are so amazing with such great personalities, and to be able to hang out with them and play some fun darts soccer and eat pizza is amazing and something we want to do more of.”

Aguilara, the team’s forward and wingback, said it was nice to meet the kids and their families and see what the Ronald McDonald House is doing.

“I think it’s very important, especially when they’re going through a tough time,” Aguilara said. “Anything we can do to make his time here a little bit better and more memorable in a good way, that’s all we can really do.”

Players from the Oak Lawn Community High School boys’ and girls’ soccer teams also volunteered.

Hannah Kohut is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.

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