'It means the world to me': Maquoketa high schoolers spend Thanksgiving serving families at Ronald McDonald House

The Loomis family talks with volunteers from Maquoketa High School at Ronald McDonald House in Iowa City on Nov. 28, 2019. (MARY GREEN/KCRG)
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - For Paisley Loomis, Thursday’s Thanksgiving dinner could wait a few minutes.

The four-year-old needed to practice writing her name, shaking her head as her dad, Ryan, offered her a plate full of turkey, green beans and stuffing.

Learning still goes on for Paisley, even as she recovers in Iowa City from a bone marrow transplant last month. Earlier in the year, Paisley's liver started to fail, and she was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a condition in which her body stopped producing enough new white blood cells, leading to the transplant.

"She goes to weekly appointments every Tuesday, gets her lab draws, gets her dressing changes,” her mom, Brandi, said.

With the Loomis family split between the Ronald McDonald House in Iowa City, where Brandi has been staying with Paisley and her 10-year-old son, Joseph, and their home in Sumner, where Ryan lives with their older son, Brandi said she didn’t know if they’d really be able to celebrate Thanksgiving.

"I didn't want to be able to have to take her home and worry about the stress of going here and going there,” she said of Paisley.

So this year, Thanksgiving came to them.

Nine students from Club Hope, a community service club at Maquoketa High School, along with three adult volunteers, took time from their own Thanksgiving to provide dinner for all the families at the Ronald McDonald House, where more than 30 families are currently staying as their children undergo care at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

A few of the students said they jumped at the opportunity to serve this Thanksgiving.

"We were all just on board with this. So my whole family's here, and I told Melissa about it, and we all just kind of hopped in our car, and we came down here,” senior Sydney Clark said.

The club catered dinner from Hy-Vee to feed the families staying at the house.

Even Chris, the Hy-Vee employee who delivered and set up the food, stayed hours past the end of his shift to make sure the dinner happened.

The club said it was a total community effort.

"Our community in Maquoketa is amazing too,” Club Hope sponsor Mindy Orris said. “A lot of people stepped up, and they gave $5, $10, $20, and some gave $100."

Ronald McDonald House relies each day on volunteers, who provide daily meals for the families staying there.

With the Iowa City house right on the University of Iowa campus, college students make up much of the volunteer force, which can dwindle when students are away from campus on breaks.

However, the Maquoketa students were glad to stop by for Thanksgiving to fill that need, not only through providing the meal but also by cleaning the house’s playroom and making crafts with the kids.

Part of the group also delivered food to patients at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital afterward.

"We come down here, we serve them, we make them feel welcomed and loved and everything,” senior Melissa Ohry said.

“I just want to extend care to them and their families when it's a hard time for them to show that people do care,” added junior Allison Ernst.

That care isn’t lost on the Loomis family, who were able to take a break as Paisley and Joseph created paper-bag turkey puppets with the high schoolers before they sat down to dinner.

Brandi said they’ll be ecstatic when Paisley is finally able to come home.

"The doctors say she's doing better than they thought she would, so she's doing good,” she said.

But on Thursday, they were just happy to all be together.

You can read the original story at kcrg.com.