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13News Now Vault: Ronald McDonald House Charities of Norfolk celebrates 40 years

We look back at the story of Ashley Hewitt, a 14-year-old who died of cancer in 2001.

NORFOLK, Va. — It’s been 40 years of helping families through their darkest moments.

The Ronald McDonald House Charities in Norfolk has been a light, keeping parents close to their kids fighting serious illness in the hospital.

This Friday, December 10, is the charity’s 40th anniversary.

“It’s a really important mission,” said Executive Director Elyse Brown.

Brown introduced us to Tim Hewitt of Virginia Beach. He’s a retired Navy pilot, husband to Nancy Hewitt, and father of three... including his late daughter, Ashley.

“Life has many challenges,” said Hewitt. “One of the greatest challenges is when your child is sick.”

Ashley was seven years old when she was diagnosed with cancer in 1994. We followed the family’s story and her seven-year fight, which ended tragically in 2001 when Ashley was just 14 years old.

“There are some days losing her seems like a lifetime ago,” said Hewitt. “Other days it’s more like it happened last week.”

What is clear: 20 years ago, the Hewitt family had a place to form final, lasting memories with Ashley.

The Ronald McDonald House in Memphis, Tennessee kept them close when their world was torn apart.

“I don’t know what we would have done without the opportunity to stay in the Ronald McDonald House,” said Hewitt.

In celebration of its 40th anniversary, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Norfolk is hosting a “40 for 40” campaign. The goal is to raise $40,000 in 40 hours.

The campaign will start Wednesday, December 8 at 8:00 am and end at midnight on Friday, December 10.