Woman raises money for Ronald McDonald House

Jazell Ladner with her little sister Tanae, who passed away from complications of leukemia when she was 13 years old. Jazell began a donation drive at Club 4 Fitness dedicated to the Ronald McDonald House in Jackson, in memory of her little sister (courtesy photo)

Briana Rucker
Staff Writer

Jazell Ladner began a donation drive at Club 4 Fitness dedicated to the Ronald McDonald House in Jackson, in memory of her little sister Tanae Ladner, who passed away from complications of leukemia when she was 13 years old.

"Ronald McDonald House just holds a special place in my heart because my sister had cancer and she battled with it for most of her life since she was 19 months old, and she practically lived there," Ladner said.

Ladner said it hurt her soul to witness Tanae suffer, because as an older sibling she said she felt an obligation to protect her younger sibling.

"When you can't really do anything to take that pain away and all you can really do is be there and make her feel comfortable or happy, or laugh," Ladner said.

Ladner did the best she could to comfort her sister during what she recalled as "torture" from her leukemia battle.

The Ronald McDonald House also provided a sense of comfort to the Ladner family in their time of need, with the organization giving a "home away from home" for families whose children are seriously ill and in Jackson for medical care.

Her mom and sister stayed at the Ronald McDonald House a week each month when Tanae would go for her chemo treatments, and Jazell would also accompany them.

"They were a blessing and helped my family de-stress about other things because they were just so kind and nice that everything was already there when we arrived — all we had to bring was our clothing," Ladner said.
If families need to anything during their stay, it's already provided by the Ronald McDonald House.

"If we were hungry there would always be food in the fridge or food in the pantry that we could just go help ourselves to, dinner would be served by local restaurants nearby, it was just a great place for my family and it helped tremendously when we all had financial struggles," she said.

Ladner said Tanae hardly had an appetite but reminisced on her wanting french toast in particular.

"I remember me and my mom whipping up some french toasts in the kitchen at 2 a.m. because Tanae was hungry, it was just the little things we did that we could to help her feel special, loved, and comfortable," Ladner said.

The charity's generosity eased the stress for Ladner's parents and kept them comfortable during the family's difficult time seeing Tanae battle with cancer.

Her family didn't hesitate to give back to the Ronald McDonald House.

Ladner's family donated items annually to the charity, but unfortunate circumstances a few years ago brought the giving to a stop.

"We weren't able to do what we always wanted to do and I actually continued it," Ladner said. "Little by little, I would bring maybe a box full of home goods up there to them every year."

It's been a tradition that Ladner continues today.

As a senior public relations major at Mississippi State University, she was assigned a big class project.

"As a PR major, one of our jobs is persuading people and I actually had a project last semester where we had to persuade someone to do something as a final exam," she said.

Ladner thought the group assignment was a great way to get people involved in a cause that was near and dear to her heart.

After brainstorming with her professor, it became more than a project — she made a donation drive.

"I work at the Club 24 (Club 4 Fitness) here in Starkville and I talked to the owner and the vice president and they agreed because it was for a good cause," she said.

Ladner is hosting a Club 4 Fitness Donation Drive for members of the community to bring in items from the Ronald McDonald House Wishlist such as cleaning supplies, toiletries, food items, and more.

"The donations that will be donated will help make their stay as comfortable as possible and focus on the health of their child which is our mission right now," Ladner said.

Each donated item counts as an ticket for the drawing on Feb. 1.

"If you donate five items, you can fill out five tickets with your name and number on it to be put into a fishbowl," she said.

Three winners will be chosen.

Free training sessions with a personal trainer will be given away, a free month membership, and a $100 Visa gift card.

The word on the donation drive is beginning to spread throughout the community with local businesses asking to post flyers to get their customers involved.

All donations can be brought into Club 4 Fitness until Jan. 31.

"I know how much it helps and I know they're legit," Ladner said.

The Ronald McDonald House made Tanae feel at home instead of being trapped in a hospital room for extended hours.

"The main reason why I'm really doing this is that this is not only a tradition that I would like to continue doing but helping other people especially the Ronald McDonald House - and other people in general makes me feel like my sister Tanae is more present with me because she was always thinking of others before herself," Ladner said.

“If she saw some other sick kid sad or crying she would be like 'Mom or dad can we go get a stuffed animal for them?'," Ladner added. "She was always looking out for other people and that makes me feel much closer to her even though she's not here."