Families of Faith

Pictured left to right: Peter Westby, Jeannie Westby, Haley Westby, Faith Westby, Landon Luft, Lilly Luft, Wendy Luft, Lenny Luft (Photography by Fagan Studios)

Most people are lucky if they have one loving family. Faith Westby has three.

Faith is a sweet, charismatic 15-year-old girl living with a rare, multi-system disorder. During an annual checkup for the girl who already had heart surgery, doctors diagnosed her with a large atypical adenoma on the left side of her liver and multiple adenomas on the right side as well.

Long story short…she needed a new liver.

“When we first learned that Faith needed a liver transplant, it felt like our world had been turned upside down,” said Faith’s mom Jeannie. “It was territory we knew nothing about and it scared us. Her health was never the greatest, but learning that she had cancer in her liver and that she needed a transplant was a complete shock.

“We were afraid for our family and for the family that would be donating the liver that would save our daughter’s life.”

On July 4, 2017, the Luft family was spending the holiday with friends. Logan, a full-of-life 15-year-old boy, was thrown from his ATV, resulting in bleeding in his brain. He was airlifted to Saint Marys in Rochester, but it was too late. Logan was pronounced brain dead on July 5. His parents, Wendy and Lenny, prayed that his organs would be used to save multiple lives.

Long story short…they did.

On July 7, two days after Logan passed away, Jeannie and Peter received a phone call they had been waiting for since the diagnosis. Faith was going to receive Logan’s liver.

“I learned about Faith’s liver transplant on Facebook,” said Logan’s mom Wendy. “Her story encouraged me to start looking for the recipient family.”

Jeannie and Faith (Photography by Fagan Studios)

The Westbys were told that the liver came from someone in the tri-state area, but did not receive any additional information. A news broadcast about Logan made them think about the possible connection to the Lufts, but it wasn’t until Jeannie received a Facebook message from Wendy that they learned the truth.

“I knew from the very beginning that it was Logan’s liver,” Jeannie said. “My heart was broken for their family. It was hard to understand how I could feel so much joy (for Faith) and so much sadness (for Logan and his family) at the same time.

“We waited anxiously for this call, but we also dreaded it.”

Jeannie did not respond immediately, scared that the Lufts would be disappointed with the way their son’s liver was used, or rather, who it was used to save. But that fear was washed away with happy tears after the two finally connected.

“I was scared to death,” said Jeannie. “I was afraid that they wouldn’t like us or that they would be disappointed that Logan’s liver went to a girl with special needs. But we became a family.”

“I was so excited to meet Faith,” Wendy said. “Our families bonded instantly. Jeannie showed me Faith’s incision and said, ‘Your DNA is a part of my daughter, so she is your daughter, too.’ It was a moment I will never forget.”

Logan and Faith are forever connected, as are the Westbys and Lufts. They refer to each other as a second family. And, according to Jeannie, the Westbys have a third family.

Faith was born with her disorder and faces a lifetime of complex medical needs. Her needs directed her and her family to Mayo Clinic for treatment. Mayo Clinic directed her and her family to the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester, Minnesota for comfort and care.

Haley, Faith, Landon, Lilly (Photography by Fagan Studios)

“Walking through the front doors (of the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester) was like walking into a completely different world,” Jeannie said. “It’s such an uplifting feeling; you feel loved. It is home, it is comfort and it has brought Faith and our family so much joy.

“The staff and volunteers are our family.”

After long days of hospital visits and recovery, Faith’s nights were filled with crafts, campfires and therapy dogs. The family was able to stay together, eat together and laugh together.

“Faith is a girl that loves people and all the activities were perfect for her health and happiness,” Jeannie said. “The House has given us so many wonderful experiences and lifelong memories.”

While Faith enjoyed being a kid, her parents enjoyed the sense of community. Families at the House are supported by staff, volunteers and other guest families. It’s a support system that is special and unique. And the Westbys wanted to share that community with the Lufts.

“They invited us to the House to show us where they lived after Faith’s surgery,” said Wendy. “And we were amazed. It’s such a blessing to have a place like that for children and their families. It’s beautiful…it is home.”

Logan and his family gave Faith and her family new life and, in the words of Jeannie, the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester “just makes life better.”

Home is the place where one lives as a member of a family. Home is the place where something flourishes. Home, for the Faith and so many others, is the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester.

Faith (Photography by Fagan Studios)

May Day! May Day! Ronald McDonald House of Rochester breaking ground in two weeks

Ronald McDonald House of Rochester, Minnesota supporters put on their “heart hats” following the groundbreaking announcement at Tuesday night’s Annual Meeting and Volunteer Appreciation Dinner

ROCHESTER, MINN.—The Ronald McDonald House of Rochester, Minnesota announced at Tuesday night’s Annual Meeting and Volunteer Appreciation Dinner that it will break ground on its 30-room expansion on May 1.

The Board of Trustees voted to move forward with the expansion at its monthly meeting in March, reflecting significant progress in the $16.5 million Love Tremendously Hope Exceedingly capital campaign.

“It’s an exciting time for the House,” said Peggy Elliott, Executive Director of the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester. “We didn’t know if we would be able to break ground this year, but thanks to the support of local businesses, individuals and the community and the leadership of the Board of Trustees, we will be able to serve many more families beginning in 2019.”

In addition to the 30 guest rooms, the expansion will include a small indoor gym, indoor and outdoor play areas, underground parking, and green space. All aspects will be completed using modern construction, creating welcoming and comfortable areas for children and families.

The expansion makes the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester the largest Ronald McDonald House in the state of Minnesota.

“It’s a great accomplishment,” Board of Trustees President Dr. Dawn Davis said. “As a provider who cares for children, I can’t say enough about the new spaces being added to the House. Play areas are vital to their health and wellness, both physically and mentally.”

The Ronald McDonald House of Rochester serves nearly 1,000 families per year, but the need for its services continues to grow, as Mayo Clinic sees 1.65 million outpatients and 130,000 hospital admissions annually. The expansion allows the House to serve many more families for years to come.

“Families travel hundreds or thousands of miles seeking care at Mayo Clinic,” said Dr. Randy Flick, Director of Mayo Clinic Children’s Center. “The House truly becomes a home for children and families facing enormous health challenges, providing far more than a place to stay. Without its incredible staff and facility, many families would simply not be able to access Mayo Clinic care.”

Graphic by EmBe Design

But the work is not over. More families need the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester and the Love Tremendously Hope Exceedingly capital campaign is not complete. The planned cost for the expansion is $16.5 million and, with $13.2 million in funds raised to date, the House still needs to raise $3.3 million.

“The groundbreaking is a significant milestone, but it is not the final goal,” Capital Campaign Chair Ed Clark said. “The House still needs your support to complete the expansion. Will you help us reach the finish line?”

Founded in 1980 as Northland Children’s Services, the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester, Minnesota provides a home-away-from-home and offers support to families seeking medical care for their children. For more information about the expansion and the Love Tremendously Hope Exceedingly capital campaign, visit www.rmhmn.org.

Graphic by EmBe Design


Seth the “Pop Tab Kid” Story

When the search for answers to Seth Bayles mysterious illness brought him to Mayo Clinic back in 2009, it was the beginning of not only treatment to halt the progression of his rare autoimmune disorder, but also his family’s special relationship with their “home-away-from home” while in Rochester – the Ronald McDonald House.

Seth’s family credits RMH with helping to keep their family close, allowing them to stay near Mayo Clinic, and providing much welcomed comfort, support, and hope. Over the past several years of Seth’s treatments, they’ve been grateful for every opportunity when they were able to move from the waiting list to the House and have developed close bonds with staff, volunteers and other families they have met during their visits to Rochester. After receiving so much from the House, Seth wanted to give back – and was inspired to join in the collection and donation of aluminum pop tabs to the House. “While our family was staying at the House, years ago…we noticed people coming into the lobby dropping off tabs. Seth got the idea that this was something he could do. He knew he could tell others about the importance of collecting the pop tabs. Little did we know how fun it would be to get the community involved in helping him to give back to his home away from home,” said Seth’s mother Julie Bayles.

The Ronald McDonald House collects pop tabs all year round as an ongoing fundraiser.  Ronald McDonald House accepts them, stores them up in a designated area and then takes them to their local recycler to cash them in. The money is used to offset the expense of running the Rochester Ronald McDonald House.

Fondly recognized as “the pop tab kid”, Seth has encouraged his entire community in Bristol, Wisconsin, to join in the effort. Over the years, he’s delivered hundreds of pounds of pop tabs to the House. When Seth heard about the launch of the Love Tremendously, Hope Exceedingly expansion campaign that would nearly double the size of the current House – he set an even more ambitious goal – a quest to collect and deliver a million aluminum pop tabs to the Ronald McDonald House. Through the efforts of social media and incredible energy and enthusiasm, Seth met and actually exceeded his goal in just two months time. “Pop tabs of course help the Ronald McDonald House tangibly but it also has enabled others to get involved and “rally around Seth” for a great cause,” said Bayle’s. “Anyone at most any age can pull a tab off a can. It creates a way for others to do something to show Seth they care. It’s been incredible to meet others, share this bond and feel the love represented in the giving of these tabs!”

Seth and his family are asking others to help by collecting pop tabs and also consider making a monetary donation that will go towards the much needed expansion to the House. On average the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester, MN serves approximately 900 families every year from across the country and around the world. In 2016, over 1,000 families were turned away because the House was full and did not have room. Over the past three years alone, more than 3,000 families were turned away because of capacity constraints.

On May 4, the Ronald McDonald House launched its largest expansion in the organization’s 36-year history with announcement of plans to nearly double the capacity of the House to serve more families. In addition to collecting and donating pop tabs, Seth has set up a crowd-funding page to help facilitate online donations that will go directly to the House. “Wouldn’t it be great if the wider community would continue to collect pop tabs but also match every pop tab that Seth has brought to the House with $1.00? ” said Ronald McDonald House of Rochester Peggy Elliott, Executive Director. “This would certainly help us raise the $4 million additional we need to start construction. We need a larger Ronald McDonald House and we are so grateful to Seth, the Bayles family and the wider community for their support and help.”

Seth’s story in the following video.

Bryce’s RMHMN Story

Over the past three years, 3,000 families were turned away from the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester, MN because of capacity constraints. “Families travel great distances to our House and often have exhausted every medical resource available near their homes. They come to our community seeking hope, healing, compassion and comfort,” said Peggy Elliott, Executive Director of Ronald McDonald House Rochester, Minnesota.  “We must answer the call to provide love and hope to seriously ill children and their families. We are so grateful to all of our donors and friends for their generous gifts of support to grow our mission,” said Elliott.

As Mayo Clinic Children’s Center grows in particular in the areas of proton beam therapy; regenerative medicine and individualized medicine the need for services at the Ronald McDonald House continue to rise. On average the Ronald McDonald House® serves over 900 families every year from across the country and around the world

Watch our latest campaign video about our former guest, Bryce.


Watch the audio description version of this film by clicking here.


Click here to make a donation to our Love Tremendously, Hope Exceedingly capital campaign.