February 9th, 2017
On Monday, RMHC Eastern Wisconsin held the 31st Annual Chef’s Dinner, where renowned Milwaukee chefs came together to create a delicious six course meal with expertly paired wine. Guests indulged in a delectable dining experience and participated in a silent auction that benefitted families who stay at the House. During the event, David Kapic spoke about his experience staying at the House in 2006 with his family when their daughter, Bridget needed surgery to repair a hole in her heart.
Please enjoy his impactful remarks.
Thank you! It is an honor to be here tonight.
A few months back I received an unexpected call from Bridget Kesner asking if I’d consider speaking at tonight’s event. To say I was surprised is an understatement, but the answer was easy – “Absolutely!” The only question was how we’d manage the logistics; with 4 active children between the ages of 11-17 there are no open evenings. My wife Jen came up with the solution… tonight became an extra special father/daughter date night. I get a chance to enjoy my Bridget’s company and to thoroughly embarrass her over the next few minutes!
Bridget is our second child and our oldest daughter. When she was just 18 months old we found out that she had an Atrial Septal Defect (ASD); for a layman like me it basically meant she had a hole in her heart. For the next couple of years, we had regular visits to the cardiologist where they monitored her ASD hoping it might close on its own. Unfortunately, it did not and in May of 2006 we headed down to Children’s Hospital in Milwaukee for Bridget to have open heart surgery.
Any parent who has dealt with a child’s serious health problem knows it is a true test. Without question we were absolutely challenged. What got us through the experience was our faith in God, a strong marriage, the blessings of amazing doctors and staff at Children’s Hospital, as well as the support of family, friends, and community. And in that warm community RMH stood out as a shining star.
Preparing for tonight I went out to Caring Bridge, another fantastic service, and was thrilled to find Bridget’s journal from 11 years ago. My wife Jen kept everyone updated using Caring Bridge. If you will indulge me I’d like to read a few of the entries as I think it is the best way to tell our story…
May 23, 2006
May 24, 2006 (the longest day)
May 25, 2006
May 26, 2006
Skipping over lots of sleepless entries to…
May 27, 2006
February 6, 2017
Bridget represents the prayers of so many families.
Today Bridget is a completely healthy 15-year-old freshman in high school who continues to make her parents proud. She suffers no long-term effects from her heart surgery.
Not every story ends as well as our story. We are so blessed and try hard never to take those blessings for granted. Frankly, speaking tonight is a selfish act. It forces me to relive the experience. It reminds me to be grateful for the blessings in my life – especially my daughter Bridget.
The journal entries I read were written 11 years ago without the wildest thought they would be referenced at event such as this one. The references to the RMH were without pretense or intention other than expressing sincere appreciation. What stood out to me was how over the course of our time at Children’s Hospital Jen stopped calling it “The Ronald McDonald House” – eventually calling it “the house.” Because that is what it became – it was our sanctuary, our home away from home. It wasn’t just the facilities and the location, but rather the volunteers and the community of parents all dealing with heart wrenching challenges. It was our retreat to deal with emotions in private. And sometimes it was simply a quiet place to rest after countless days and nights without sleep.
My wish in sharing Bridget’s story is that you might have a more personalized appreciation of the RMH and the incredible services they provide. With the help and support of people like you the RMH has grown and expanded over the past 11 years to accommodate more families who are in need. And while Bridget Kesner never asked me for a financial donation or to make an appeal to you, I want to personally ask that you give strong consideration to providing financial support. Few charities have such a direct and profound effect on our community. From my biased perspective RMH stands alone in terms of mission and impact.
Thank you for listening, thank you for the consideration, and thank you for helping me to embarrass my daughter!