TAMPA - When Donna Young signed on to join Ronald McDonald House in 1980, she was a little cautious about a brand new charity with no track record.
"They offered me a two-year contract and I bartered for 18 months because I didn't know what it was. I wanted an out in case it didn't go well."
It went very well for Young, who has been on the job longer as director than any other employee in the history of the organization. Young and her husband raised their family living in the Ronald McDonald House near downtown St. Petersburg, their children playing with the visiting patients and their siblings who were often going through the worst time of their lives.
"It's not easy having a child in the hospital or even one as an outpatient. We just want it to be as pleasant as possible," said Young.
The little touches make a Ronald McDonald House a home for families getting treatment for their children far from home. Nick and Alesha Schutz are here from Minnesota with their seven-day-old baby, just released from neo-natal intensive care unit.
"It's amazing. It's great to have staff and volunteers who are as caring as they are," said Alesha.
Ronald McDonald House also made it possible for Amy Troche from the East Coast to get treatment for her son available only here.
"This is so important. For three years we were trying to find something local, and if it wasn't for this place, he wouldn't be able to get the help he needs," said Troche, brimming with tears.
This was the first Ronald McDonald house in Florida when it opened and is now a training model for new houses around the world.
Donna Young is still planning the next phase of her life, but can walk away knowing her legacy is secure, after serving over 30,000 families.
"My legacy is that my family is proud of what I've done and I've been able help as many families as possible stay with their children while they needed them the most."