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EB&T Foundation, Ronal McDonald House St. Louis, 2023 Community Impact Report

A Home Away From Home: How the Slivniker Family Was Uplifted by Community Care

When Spela Slivniker’s 2-year-old daughter, Brina, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy in 2016 in their hometown of Medvode, Slovenia, she and her husband, Luka, knew they needed to find Brina the best care possible.

Due to Brina’s condition, she was unable to walk, stand, sit and eat without assistance.

Ronald McDonald House St. Louis, 2023 Community Impact Report

Brina at Colton Parayko's Project 55 Game Day Experience. This photo is from April 2022 at a St. Louis Blues home game.

“Our little girl was suffering, and we were unsure of what path to take forward. Our experience with children’s health care in Slovenia was very transactional, but we wanted Brina to be surrounded by kindness during her treatment,” Spela says.

After finding a hospital that specialized in treating cerebral palsy, the Slivniker family decided to move across the world to St. Louis, Missouri, to begin Brina’s treatment at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Knowing this would be an extended stay, they made long-term living arrangements at the local Ronald McDonald House, a home away from home for families with hospitalized children.

From the moment they stepped off the plane, Spela and Luka remembered feeling well cared for.

“We got onto a bus at the airport and explained to the driver that we were from Slovenia, here for our daughter’s treatment, and the driver told us we didn’t have to pay anything for the ride. We experienced that same generosity and care when we arrived at the Ronald McDonald House. The staff said, ‘Welcome home,’ and we have felt at home ever since,” Spela says.

When Dan Harbaugh, President and CEO of the St. Louis Ronald McDonald House Charities, started leading the organization in 1994, the organization was able to house 20 families. Today, there are three houses in the St. Louis area, providing homes for 59 families total. The Enterprise Bank & Trust Foundation pledged a total of $50,000 to the organization over the course of five years to further their mission and help fuel growth.

Julie Ahrling, VP of Treasury Management at Enterprise, has been on the organization’s fundraising committee for more than eight years, leading the second-largest fundraiser, the Kids & Clays Tournament, a sporting event Enterprise sponsors annually.

“This kind of growth isn’t possible without companies like Enterprise that generously fund our cause, and people like Julie that take the time to volunteer and lead fundraising events. The impact we’re making together on so many lives is insurmountable,” Dan says.

“The tournament in 2023 was able to raise around a half million dollars for the organization. It’s pretty special to be a part of,” Julie says. “I’m so glad I work for a company that invests in organizations that are making real change throughout St. Louis.”

Since arriving at the house eight years ago, the Slivniker family has met countless friends experiencing similar trials.

Ronald McDonald House St. Louis, 2023 Community Impact Report

“The sense of community here has been a blessing. We couldn’t have gone through this without the friends we’ve made with the other residents and staff,” Spela says. “Because of this organization, Brina is able to get the help she needs. Now she can be independent and do a lot of things on her own.”

Ronald McDonald House St. Louis, 2023 Community Impact Report