Local communities provide merry Christmas for sick children thanks to Cedar Falls woman

By Cara L. Dempski

CEDAR FALLS — For all the joy the winter holiday season can bring, there can also be a lot of stress.

Things like travel, parties, and even shopping for gifts can take their toll. Add in the extra challenge of having sick children, or being sick yourself, and small tasks can suddenly seem insurmountable.

Thankfully, a group of parents with very ill children have the chance to get Christmas presents for their children without having to brave the crowds at local shopping centers, and it is thanks to a Cedar Falls woman who wanted to make sure families staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Rochester have a bright holiday season.

Jeanna (Cress) Berge is a graduate of Glenwood City High School, and last holiday season, she decided to turn one of the hardest and scariest parts of her life into something positive for others. A source wishing to remain anonymous brought Berge’s story to the Colfax Messenger’s attention.

According to the source, Berge’s second child suffered serious medical issues, forcing Berge and her family to spend a great deal of time at Mayo Hospital in Rochester, and at Ronald McDonald House.

“Ronald McDonald House took them in with open arms and were the most kind people during one of their (the Berges) most stressful times,” the source wrote in an initial email.

The kindness of the people at the house inspired Berge to give a little something back to the staff and families staying at the location, and so before Christmas 2016, she took to social media website Facebook asking for monetary donations or gifts to put in the house’s “Snowflake Room.”

According to the Ronald McDonald House website, the Snowflake Room is where families can go to check out the toys or other gifts to find things for their children, and helps relieve the stress of holiday shopping for a family focused on helping a child get healthy.

Not only do parents get to walk through the room to pick out gifts for their children, but the children get to look for gifts for their parents as well. Everything is free for the families.

Last year, Berge collected 40 gifts, 50 newborn hats, $250 in cash, and a bag of pop tabs to be redeemed for money. This year, the communities of Colfax and Glenwood City provided 230 gifts, 50 newborn hats, a bag of pop tabs, 92 batteries, and over $250 in cash.

Berge dropped everything off at the house on November 10, and people were still trying to donate just weeks before thanksgiving.

“They (the staff at Ronald McDonald House) thought it was the greatest thing,” the anonymous source said during a phone interview. “The Glenwood City and Colfax people were amazing with their donations, and everything really goes to the families at the houses.”

The source indicated Berge and her family plan to keep this new tradition going, and asks anyone interested in donating in the years to come to please contact Jeanna Berge to get donations to the children and families at the Rochester, Minnesota, house.