Family of cancer patient says they were victims of discrimination by charity group

Thursday, October 1, 2015
Ronald McDonald House denies family's request
Ronald McDonald House denies family's request for lodging.

HOUSTON -- The family of a 4-year-old cancer patient says they were victims of discrimination when they were refused housing by the Ronald McDonald House Houston.

In January, Jolynn Garcia was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer. She underwent emergency surgery to remove the tumor. By July, she would begin chemotherapy at MD Anderson.

She and her family are from the Rio Grande Valley, so they asked if they could stay at the Ronald McDonald House in Houston during treatments. Their request was denied.

"You all say, advertise, that you don't turn away any child at all. How come you're denying my daughter?" asked Jolynn's mother, Evelyn Garcia.

They were told it was because Jolynn's father was convicted of a misdemeanor assault seven years ago.

"You're denying my daughter because of something my husband did seven years ago before he met me? Before my daughter was even born... I don't think that's right," said Evelyn Garcia.

Evelyn Garcia says she even offered to have her husband stay elsewhere, so that just she and Jolynn could use Ronald McDonald House. She says that request was denied as well. Curious, she notes because they were all allowed to stay at the Ronald McDonald House in Corpus Christi previously when Jolynn underwent treatment there.

Officials with Ronald McDonald House say the facility is a communal living environment and that out of an abundance of caution, background checks are done on those who want to stay. CEO Leslie Bourne issued a statement reading in part: "If a background check reveals conviction for assault, crimes against children or family violence, as well as other violent criminal activity, then for the well-being of all families staying in the house, the family would be asked to work with their hospital social worker to find other accommodations."

While Bourne says the family was allowed to use a Ronald McDonald house family room at MD Anderson, the hospital says those rooms are really meant only for short-term relaxation. Evelyn Garcia insists even social workers at the hospital couldn't come up with any better options for long-term housing.

They couldn't afford a hotel, so they began to commute, once a week for nearly two months while Jolynn underwent chemotherapy.

Jolynn's prognosis is better than before. Her mother says doctors give her a 70-percent chance of survival.

The Garcia family is trying to keep up with medical bills that have been stacking up. They've created a GoFundMe account where you can make a donation to help them offset those expenses. For more on that click here: