Family dedicates bench to Ronald McDonald House in memory of daughter
August 28, 2023
FORT WAYNE, Ind. – Although it’s been more than five years, Sherry Leeman can still remember everything about her family’s visit to Parkview Regional Medical Center and the Ronald McDonald House of Northeast Indiana.
“I remember walking down this hallway when we should’ve been sleeping, but we didn’t want to sleep,” the Pierceton resident said. “When you know you only have so many days with your child, it’s hard to leave their side.”
The Leeman family returned to Parkview Friday for the second time since their daughter, Emma Grace, died in 2018. The family dedicated a bench in her honor to the Ronald McDonald House on the health network’s campus.
The Optimist Pub Club of Indianapolis paid for the bench dedicated in the child’s memory.
Emma Grace Leeman died at 11 months old and was an organ donor. The family worked with the Indiana Donor Network to donate her liver to a boy in North Carolina and her heart to a girl in Delaware.
“(Emma Grace) didn’t even have her first birthday, but she started first grade this year because they did,” Sherry Leeman said of the organ recipients.
Nick Leeman said they are close with both families, and it’s been therapeutic to meet and have a relationship with them.
“We are so happy to have helped,” he said. “It becomes a passion.”
The couple said they had never discussed organ donation before Emma Grace died, but they knew they wanted to help other families.
Nick Leeman said it was emotional to be back at Parkview, and he was happy to see the bench outside Ronald McDonald House. The family chose to put the bench on the medical campus so families can breathe, relax and reflect during their hospital stay.
“We’ve only seen it in pictures up until now,” Nick Leeman said. “It’s beautiful.”
Jenifer Veatch, director of the Ronald McDonald House, said the organization is thankful to have been chosen for the bench.
“We have a lot of families and staff who pass through this hallway,” Veatch said. “This is going to be a place of rest when they’re coming down the hallway.”
Autumn Smith, a family services coordinator for Indiana Donor Network, said she has worked with the Leeman family “since the beginning.” Smith called the Leeman family an inspiration for other families.
“Emma Grace’s legacy will help others by providing a space where families can relax and take a deep breath during moments of a loved one’s hospital stay,” Smith said. “Emma Grace is living a positive and healing life for other families for years to come.”