LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Arkansas in Little Rock provides a home away from home for sick children and their families. You can find an inspiring story around every corner, whether it’s a child beating cancer or a premature infant finally leaving the hospital.

This story, though, isn’t about those who stay in the house, but the woman who runs it.

From managing 32 rooms to being the first point of contact for 1,200 families a year, for more than a decade Wilma Foster has been the smiling face and chipper voice that greets all who walk into the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Arkansas in Little Rock.

“It’s a joy honestly. It’s a joy. It has some days has challenges but most of it, it’s rewarding coming in here every day,” Wilma said.

She builds relationships with every family that books a stay. 

“If they’re coming back for an appointment, they’ll come back just to say ‘Hi.’ You know ‘How you doing, Miss Wilma?'” she said.

Day in and day out, Wilma is the one encouraging them to battle the unimaginable, all while she is in a battle of her own.

“Stage four colon cancer, their diagnosis was six months to two years,” she said.

Some might lose hope after a prognosis like that, but not Wilma Foster. Colon cancer runs in her family and she encourages everyone to get checked regularly.

“Y’all don’t know me and you don’t know God,” she said. “I didn’t want to be a hypocrite after the diagnosis. I mean I’ve been their cheerleader for 12, 14 years. So how could I not be my own cheerleader.”

Wilma had surgery and shortly after started chemo all while still coming into work. 

“We were short-staffed one day, so I was working the front desk a few weeks ago,” RMHCA Program Director Donna Csyuno said.

Sometimes, on days like that, Wilma will even come in on the same days as her treatments.

“I said ‘Speed this pump up, do what you need to do. I got to go to work,’” she explained. “When I walked in this door she was like ‘What are you doing here?’ I said ‘I almost told them to hook me up with the IV so I can just go to work and do this.”

“It was embarrassing, really embarrassing,” Csyuno said, adding that she has gone above and beyond to get Foster to take some time and recover.

“I literally, she will tell you, have stood here and watched her walk out the door because I was afraid if I didn’t, she wouldn’t,” Csyuno noted.

While she has this infectious attitude, Wilma would be lying if she said there weren’t days that were harder than the others, like the day she started seeing some of the side effects of chemo.

Just as she started feeling down, she thought back to all those she’s seen go through the exact same thing.

“My hair was my glory I thought,” Wilma said. “I remember watching my kids get their heads shaved here and you know they come back and they are beaming around, bald heads and everything and they have hats and stuff to go with their noggin and so I just went in and I said ‘cut it, do the cut.'”

She draws confidence from the little warriors she sees every day.

“This month I have been in chemo treatment for a year, and I look fly, I look good,” Wilma said.

In turn, she is showing them they’re not alone.

“We had a little girl, she was about four,” Wilma said. “She was looking, and I said, ‘Hey girl, I like your hair’ and then I pulled mine off and she came and rubbed my head and it was like instant connection from that point,” Foster said.

While many believe it’s the rooms and warm beds that make the Ronald McDonald House a home away from home, in reality, it’s the woman running this house who becomes family to all who walk in and out the doors.

“She is the heart and the soul of the organization,” Csyuno said.