By Mike Schuh

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Ask a parent, even the smallest illness in a child can throw a home into chaos. Now imagine what it’s like if that illness involves a hospital.

Mike Schuh reports on a place which knows exactly what it’s like for a family.

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The red and yellow accents hint that this is no ordinary rowhome, a place where kids like 4-year-old Manny can feel at home. Born three and a half months early, he’s deaf, is fed through a tube and has had 25 surgeries. His parents lived here for half a year when he was born. Now they’re back because he needs therapy to learn how to eat real food.

“Words cannot say what this place does for us,” said Erika Garrett, Manny’s mom.

For two months, this is their home.

“That’s the last thing you want to worry about, is where you’re going to stay, what you’re going to eat when your child is in the hospital fighting for his life,” Garrett said.

Garrett is the latest of more than 30,000 family members who have stayed at the Ronald McDonald House.

Four years ago, Clemson freshman Chris Swit began seeing double.

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“I didn’t know what to do,” Swit said.

It took a year and doctors at Hopkins to diagnose his brain tumor. His mom–and, later, Swit–stayed here for two months.

“Once we arrived at the Ronald McDonald House, the burden was lifted,” said Cindy Swit. “Not only financially, and then I could keep my focus on my son, then come home and the volunteers have hot meals for us…amazing.”

Did you notice she said “home?” When, for 30 years, such gifts are given, the gratitude shows.

“We’re so grateful. It’s amazing what they offer here. I don’t know how it would have turned out had we not had this place to go to,” Chris Swit said.

Last year, they were able to help more than 1,400 families but they had to turn away more than 500 families. For the long term, they’ve just formed an exploratory committee to try to see if they can expand.

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The house is run by a local board and all of its funding comes from local sources.