Cailen Rundles and his parents, Royce Rundles and Emily Burnett, walked Friday through the frame of what they hope to call their future home in Gainesville, plotting what will go where.
Cailen, 13, has his short hair dyed purple, the color of Chiari malformation awareness, a condition his mother described as his “brain has fallen out of his skull.”
During a later surgery, he had a “brain bleed, which caused the traumatic brain injury,” Burnett said.
“When he woke up, he couldn’t move anything on the right side of his body or talk. That’s what landed us in Atlanta, (Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at) Scottish Rite and the Ronald McDonald House,” Burnett said.
When it came time to make his Christmas wish list, the thing he wanted most was to have the house finished. His parents explained it wouldn’t be financially feasible right now.
His response: Give back to the Ronald McDonald House “for everything they’ve done for our family and other families.”
Cailen and his family have spent the last few months organizing a toy drive for the children and families at the Ronald McDonald House.
“I only thought we were going to get about 25 or 50. But instead, add 700 to that. It was more than I expected,” Cailen said.
Cailen has spent much of the last 18 months in and around the Sandy Springs charity that houses children receiving medical care at local hospitals. He’s had six brain surgeries and was also diagnosed with hydrocephalus, a buildup of fluid on the brain.
He’s an unabashed practical joker who also motivates others in therapy.
“They already gave so much to me and they put up with me ... I figured I’d might as well give back,” Cailen said.
The family put a donation box at Reid’s Cafe in Murrayville as well as taking to social media. One of the biggest benefactors was the University of North Georgia Athletics, where Cailen signed on through Team Impact to the school’s baseball team.
“All the athletes collected gifts for Cailen’s gift drive, and they surprised him with them on his signing day,” Burnett said.
The family moved back in October to the Ronald McDonald House following a surgery and will come home to Hall County around Jan. 12.