The Beginnings of RMHC of the Red River Valley

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“We have been at the hospital for almost 12 hours and it seems like a lifetime. I just looked in on Sara and she looks so beautiful and peaceful laying in her crib. She has been so brave and good considering all of the poking, prodding and sticking with needles they have done to her. I almost feel guilty because she is braver than I am. Sometimes she just lays in her crib, eyes wide open, laying so still. What could she be thinking about? Is there a remote chance she knows what is ahead and isn’t afraid? How come I am more afraid than I have ever been in my whole life?” -Bev McAllister, December 1978 journal excerpt 

On December 16, 1978, Bev McAllister received a phone call from her husband, Jim, about a lump he found on their 14-month old little girl, Sara. Prior to finding the lump on Sara’s stomach, Sara had been acting differently – subdued and lethargic – although at a doctor’s appointment Jim and Bev were instructed not to be concerned.  

After Jim noticed the lump, the McAllister’s made arrangements for their two older children and brought Sara to the Valley City Emergency Room where the attending doctor immediately knew something was wrong. The family was rushed to a pediatrician in Fargo where they learned Sara’s diagnosis: liver cancer. This news of this rare form of cancer was disruptive, terrifying and followed by five days of incredible ups and downs. Then, on December 21, 1978, Sara passed away. 

It took the McAllister’s many long years to figure out what their lives would look like without their beautiful daughter. They learned, “Sara’s death, no matter how difficult it was, became an occasion for grace.” The family is convinced that all situations can be an occasion for grace and that good, wonderful things can follow even the heaviest tears. They held onto the belief that, “We have no right to ask when sorrow comes, ‘Why has this happened to me?’, unless we ask that same question for every joy that comes our way.” 

As the couple pieced their lives together, they became involved with a support group for parents who either have had a child with cancer or one that lost the battle. Bev befriended two other moms from the support group. The trio heard about a newly opened Ronald McDonald House in Minneapolis and were given the opportunity to tour the house in the spring of 1979. A dream was born in their hearts of a place like that, a supportive, safe, private and quiet place for families to get away from the hospital, in Fargo, ND. These moms knew more could be done for families. 

The women met with Wayne Allard, social worker, of St. Luke’s Hospital in Fargo several times over the course of a year to ponder how the process could begin. The project soon became too large for these four impassioned people and they involved the McDonald’s Corporation. 

In December 1982, four years after the day Sara died, the Ronald McDonald House welcomed families for the first time at 1234 Broadway N. in Fargo, ND. Bev expressed deep gratitude, “This dream that started with a couple of moms thinking we can do this better, is a reality because of the many donors, supporters, volunteers and people who love the concept of helping these families in need ‘to have a home away from home.’…I know for a fact, my family would of loved and appreciated it all those years ago.” 

What started with three brave moms 36 years ago has now become what so many families call home for a short period in their lives: a comfortable, relaxing space with a built-in support system in a beautiful new house at 4757 Agassiz Crossing S., Fargo.

front of brown and tan house in winter, snow on ground

North House, opened in 1982

front of yellow house in winter, snow on ground

South House, opened in 2005

front of gray and white house, blue and cloudy skies

New House, opened in 2018