Ronald McDonald House family sheds light on Giving Tuesday's impact

Nonprofit raised more than $21,000 by 5 p.m. Tuesday

ROANOKE, Va. – On the heels of one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year, thousands of people are pulling out cash for a different cause.

It's all part of Giving Tuesday, kicking off the charitable season and encouraging you to support organizations that matter to you.

One in the Roanoke Valley that’s making a big push this Giving Tuesday is the Ronald McDonald House.

The nonprofit set a $15,000 goal for its Giving Tuesday call-a-thon and topped that in just a couple of hours thanks to donations, big and small.

"The company decided that they would match it dollar for dollar, resulting in today's five-figure check," said John Slaski, who brought TMEIC’s donation to the Ronald McDonald House Tuesday.

"When I opened up a check for $10,180, I just burst into tears," Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southwest Virginia executive director Anna Semonco said.

For one donor in particular, Giving Tuesday hits close to home. Last November, Jane Plyler's son, Fen, made an early entrance into the world. He was born three months early, and then spent the next 10 weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit at Carilion.

"It was terrifying. We didn't know that everything was going to be OK," Plyler said.

On top of worrying about Fen, the Plylers faced another hurdle: living an hour away from the hospital and having another child at home.

"There was just a lot of anxiety of, 'Where am I going to go?'" Plyler said.

That's where the Ronald McDonald House stepped in. The Plylers didn't stay at the actual home, but spent a lot of time in the family room at Carilion. It was a place that gave them privacy, comfort and hope.

"I would come in every day and I would read different people's stories and it gave me so much hope that everything would be OK," Plyler said.

The nonprofit’s help allowed Plyler to see a light at the end of a dark tunnel that she said she likely wouldn't have seen without the Ronald McDonald House.

"He was on oxygen. He was tiny. He was just at 3 pounds. It's hard to see the future -- and now where he is, it's unbelievable," Plyler said.

Plyler hopes people see Fen as living proof of the power of Giving Tuesday.

At last check, the Ronald McDonald House had raised more than $21,000 so far on Giving Tuesday.

Click here to see a full list of organizations participating in Giving Tuesday.

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Jessica anchors 10 News on Saturdays and Sundays at 6 and 11 p.m. You can also catch her reporting during the week.