Orange Police Department partners with Ronald McDonald House to help families in need of support

By Jessica Peralta

The Orange Police Department SWAT team worked double-duty at the Ronald McDonald House in Orange on a recent Wednesday evening.

But instead of gearing up for a crisis situation, the team was there to offer a different kind of support for families in need as they face long-term hospital stays for their children.

“It’s just nice when we can give something back to the community,” SWAT Capt. Eric Rosauer said. “We’re real humans. We’re here to help, but we’re also here because we’re part of the community.”

Seven-year-old Nevaeh Cortez of Orange is all smiles as she sits down to a home-cooked meal prepared by Orange police officers at the Ronald McDonald House in Orange.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

As SWAT team members set up their gear outside the house, others from Orange PD, including Sgt. Phil McMullin, put their magic to work in the kitchen, cooking and serving rotisserie chicken, dinner rolls, macaroni and cheese, tri-tip, and pumpkin pie.

“On behalf of the Orange Police Department and SWAT Team, please come and eat,” McMullin said to the parents in the Ronald McDonald House dining room.

Six-year-old Brooklynn Stichler of Camarillo pets Danto, a K9 with the Orange Police Department, as his handler, Officer Damon Allen, holds him. Brooklynn is staying at the Ronald McDonald House as she goes to CHOC twice a month for a motility disorder.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Parents and families who stay at the house receive two free meals a day from community donations, as well as free housing while children are receiving treatment at CHOC Children’s and other area hospitals, Ronald McDonald House Operations Director Katie Russell said.

“They’re out there and they’re keeping the community safe,” she said of the organization’s partnership with the Orange PD. “I think it’s important to show the compassionate side.”

Orange Police Sgt. Phil McMullin, left, and Lt. Mike Monjaraz put out a chicken/tri-tip/macaroni and cheese meal for families staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Orange.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Providing these families with food and a comfortable place to stay allows them to put all their energy into their ill child, she said.

“It’s nice to be able to come somewhere that feels like home,” said Jamie Niffenegger of Apple Valley, who is staying at the house while her newborn undergoes surgery for diaphragmatic hernia, a birth defect involving an abnormal opening in the baby’s diaphragm. “I think it’s the small things that help.”

Orange Police Officer Damon Allen shows Nevaeh Cortez, 7, of Orange and her 8-year-old aunt, Andrey Gonzalez, right, a gas launcher used by the SWAT team while the girls get a demonstration as the Orange Police Department visits the Ronald McDonald House in Orange.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

While parents and officers shared a meal together in the dining area, SWAT and K9 officers held mini question-and-answer sessions with those walking in and out of the house.

Orange PD K9 Officer Damon Allen and German shepherd Danto, along with K9 Officer Mike Osborn and German shepherd Wyatt, were readily available to answer questions – while the dogs were more than happy to receive friendly pats on the back. One young child was blissfully content to give the dogs continuous attention.

Kathy Rosas of Huntington Beach, left, whose 20-year-old daughter is in ICU, and Lawrence Waterman of Lake Elsinore, whose 19-year-old daughter is also at CHOC, smiles as they dish out a meal at the Ronald McDonald House prepared by officers from the Orange Police Department.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Allen explained the various tools and gear utilized by the SWAT team that was laid out on the demo table.

“Do you guys play sports? This is just like a little megaphone,” he said. “And this right here, we use this to get indoors.”

Russell said this is the first year Ronald McDonald House has partnered with the Orange PD, but it’s something they hope to continue regularly in the future.

“They can really relate to what our families are going through,” she said.

Eight-year-old Darwin Loyola of San Demis pets Orange Police K9 Wyatt as the police pay a visit to the Ronald McDonald House in Orange.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Officers from the Orange Police Department cook a meal for families staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Orange. From left: Officer Augie Rocha, Lt. Mike Monjaraz, Sgt. Phil McMullin, and Sgt. David Barr.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge