Ronald McDonald House
Emjay Returns Nine Years Later
By Gene Davis
Randy and Alia Tesorio were just about ready to check out of the Judd Hillside Ronald McDonald House and fly back home to Maui with their two children when they took a few moments to share some of their thoughts with us. Back home on the Valley Isle, Randy is a twelve–year Costco Wholesale employee, and Alia is a child–care provider and licensed masseuse.
Their perspective on staying at the House may be a little bit different than most, as they had stayed here previously back in 2001 when their son Emjay was born with a cleft palette. In addition, Alia’s mom Carol had stayed at the House some 19 years ago when Alia’s sister Kuuipo was born prematurely. “That made it easy the first time we stayed here because my mom told me about this place,” said Alia. “She told me ’don’t worry, everything is going to be ok.’ And she was right.”
What seemed to strike them was that it felt so much the same this time around. “The energy is so beautiful here,” Alia remarked. “We feel so welcomed. It’s comfortable. It’s really clean. You provide everything. It was the same way nine years ago too. It feels the same as it did then, almost like it was just yesterday.”
On this visit, Emjay, now nine years– old, had bone–graft surgery to strengthen his jaw line. “They took bone from his head and put it in the right side of his jaw,” explained Alia. “As he grows, we go through different things at different times. Some of the cosmetic surgery must wait until he is fully grown.”
But Emjay hasn’t let his ongoing medical treatments knock him off course. He is a happy fourth–grader at Wailuku Elementary School where he was recently selected as “Student of the Month”. He loves playing baseball, basketball, and especially football, the sport in which he was voted Most Valuable Player on his team.
“Now that Emjay’s had his bone graft, he isn’t scheduled for any other major treatments for a while,” shared Randy. “For the next five years, he probably doesn’t have to do anything, which is good because he gets kind of scared when he has surgery. But we’re interested in doing something to save his teeth in the long run too.”
“He speaks very well,” added Alia. “We have been very fortunate that we were made aware of available speech therapy and physical rehab for Emjay. He was out of speech therapy before he hit kindergarten. He’s in regular ed classes.”
But the real reason Randy and Alia stopped by to chat was that they wanted to tell us what staying at the Ronald McDonald House has meant to them. “It’s hard when you are away from home. You guys have done so much for us, and it isn’t just financial,” Randy told us. “It’s really beautiful here. It’s so homey and the volunteers are awesome. The kids love it. I’d like to say thank you very much. We are very blessed to have people like you folks that really care.”