‘Call it karma’

Local businessman sees generosity come full circle

Savannah Vasquez
Hannah Harrell gave birth to daughter Hazel Leigh Guerrero two months early at Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola and is currently staying at Ronald McDonald House of Pensacola. [CONTRIBUTED PHOTO]

Rob Harrell, owner of Gulf Coast Boating Centers in Fort Walton Beach, is familiar with the Ronald McDonald House. In fact, for the past two years he has actively supported the non-profit organization with their boat raffle for the annual Big Mac Classic Fishing Tournament in Destin.

“Several from their team (at the Pensacola Ronald McDonald House) are our customers and they approached me and asked if we could help facilitate the raffle for the tournament,” Harrell said, mentioning Mike Wright, Jerry Andrews and David Locht. “We donated a portion and Sportsman’s Boats donated a portion and made it manageable for them to acquire a boat for the raffle at way below wholesale price; they raised a substantial amount of money for the house.”

Little did Harrell know that this year – just one week after awarding the winning couple with their new boat – he would witness first-hand the generosity that the Ronald McDonald House has to offer.

“We were having Thanksgiving Day at our house, and my brother and his youngest daughter Hannah were in from Houston,” Harrell said, noting that his niece was seven-months pregnant at the time. “Just before noon her water broke. It was a mad dash up to Sacred Heart in Destin and with the baby being not due until the end of January, this was quite premature so they took her by ambulance over to Sacred Heart in Pensacola.”

Four days later, a healthy baby girl was born, but because she was two months premature, doctors opted to keep her admitted until she has developed enough for release.

“Call it karma or whatever, but she applied to Ronald McDonald House in Pensacola and was accepted and they are still there now,” Harrell said of his niece Hannah. “They still don’t know when the baby will be released but she is very healthy for her stage, and as for my niece she is just a displaced Texan.”

Hannah Harrell added that she and her new little family are very grateful for the Ronald McDonald House.

“The Ronald McDonald House has been so amazing to us while we stay here,” she said. “We are so thankful!”

As for generosity coming full-circle, Rob said that he laughed when his niece asked him if he had ever heard of Ronald McDonald House before her situation.

“I’ve heard about the Ronald McDonald house for years,” he said. “They do some great things over there (in Pensacola). The whole atmosphere is just relaxing, and often times the families are under a lot of stress and they seem to do a great job of relieving that stress. It’s a very worthy cause; They offer immeasurable emotional support, and they do fantastic things for people in need.”