Aeriynn Poindexter is just 16 months old and has the rest of her life to look forward to. And she’ll do it overcoming great odds after losing her right eye last December to Retinoblastoma, a form of eye cancer.
“Aeriynn has been through three treatments already and has three more to go,” said Roshanda Poindexter, Aeriynn’s mother. “The treatments are taking place over a six-month span.”
It’s tough news for any parent to hear, especially when it involves a toddler barely learning to walk. What made the situation even more difficult was the nearest pediatric facility that could provide the treatment, which requires both in-patient and out-patient recovery time, was the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, an 80-mile drive one way for the family from Beaumont (a city a few miles east of Riverside).
That’s where the Los Angeles Ronald McDonald House stepped in. Roshanda didn’t have the means to pay for extended hotel stays, but with the Los Angeles Ronald McDonald House just around the corner from the hospital, it was the ideal set-up.
“The Poindexters are the perfect example of the average family we serve,” said Dawn L. Brown, the executive director for the Los Angeles Ronald McDonald House. “They live more than 50 miles from the hospital and simply need support as they go through this challenging time.”
Brown said that that’s where companies like Edison International and its employees step in.
Edison International employees help raise money for the Los Angeles Ronald McDonald House each year by participating in, and donating money to, the annual Ronald McDonald Walk for Kids. This year, Stu Hemphill will be leading the charge for employees who participate. He is SCE’s interim CFO and senior vice president of Power Supply and Financial and Operational Services, and a board member for the Los Angeles Ronald McDonald House.
“Edison employees have always demonstrated a willingness to help those in need," he said. "Every year, employees give hundreds of thousands of dollars and provide thousands of volunteer hours for our communities. At last year’s Walk for Kids, we were recognized as the No. 1 team for fundraising. This year, I’m hoping we can have even more walkers and raise even more donations, to help families of children with critical illnesses."
At a recent company kick-off event to raise money and awareness for the Ronald McDonald Walk for Kids, Hemphill brought an old friend of the company and the charity to raise the excitement and enthusiasm for the walk — Magic Johnson.
Amidst his busy schedule of owning a Major League Baseball team, flying cross-country to support his alma mater, Michigan State, in the NCAA basketball tournament, or running his Magic Johnson Foundation, Johnson still found time to come out to the kick-off event because he understands the importance of an organization like the Ronald McDonald House.
“It’s an outstanding organization that helps families and kids,” said Johnson, as he flashed his trademark smile to take pictures with the Poindexters. “Especially those who can’t afford to have quality healthcare or can’t afford to maybe have a house that they can pay rent for or an apartment.
“That’s why the walk is so important,” he said. “That’s why companies like Southern California Edison can really come together with Ronald McDonald House and help these incredible families, especially these kids because they need the help.”
Brown agreed, and said that sponsoring companies and their employees are an important part of what the Ronald McDonald House is trying to do.
“That’s why we are able to serve over 2,000 families annually at (the Los Angeles) house,” she said.
Roshanda shudders at the thought of the alternative if she didn’t receive the help — if the Los Angeles Ronald McDonald House was not there to step in.
“I would have panicked if I didn’t have this opportunity available,” she said. “Without the house, I’d be on the street corner going crazy.”
As she enjoyed the kick-off event with Aeriynn and her older brother, Jordan, it was hard for Roshanda to fight off the tears of gratitude.
“I’m just thankful to the Los Angeles Ronald McDonald House and companies like SCE,” she said. “I’m just trying not to get too emotional, but it’s hard.”
The Walk for Kids will be held on Sunday, April 6 at Exposition Park.