TALLAHASSEE — As full-time missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), Elders Ethan Eliason and Preston Swensen are spending two years away from home to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ — and serve the people of Florida and Georgia. 

That call to service is why every Friday morning Eliason and Swensen change into work clothes and do lawn maintenance work at Tallahassee’s Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) facility, a refuge for families who have pediatric patients in nearby hospitals. 

Generally, families can stay at RMHC if their child remains in active treatment, based on availability of rooms. 

According to the charity, its goal is to provide a safe and healthy living environment for families who are far away from home and caring for a child with a severe illness. Since many of these hospitalized children already have compromised immune systems, the Ronald McDonald House minimizes the chance of infection while also supporting our healthcare professionals who are on the front lines of battling disease. 

“Because of the Coronavirus, they needed some extra help. We pull weeds, rake leaves, whatever they need us to do,” said Elder Swensen, who hails from Rupert, Idaho. 

Elder Eliason, from Gilbert, Arizona, said he loves serving the community. 

“It’s great to be able to help out great organizations like Ronald McDonald House,” he said. "They are helping families in need, so I am grateful that we have an opportunity to provide service,” he said. 

Research shows that patients whose families stayed at the Ronald McDonald House are the sickest, traveled the farthest distances, and spent the longest time in the hospital. 

Family proximity to the hospital provides important psychological benefits. Parents get better sleep at a Ronald McDonald House and families who stay in a Ronald McDonald House report more positive hospital experiences and a greater ability to participate in their child’s care. 

“The two guys that have been coming recently are amazing. We appreciate them so much,” said Kim Curran, house operations and volunteer manager at Tallahassee’s RMHC. 

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