HGTV reality star helping complete new Ronald McDonald House in metro

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Ronald McDonald House is meant to be a happy place for families of those getting medical treatment. Very soon it will also be a bigger place.

The latest of its four facilities is coming together, thanks, in part, to a reality show star with a sick boy of her own.

It's more than just a house to Weatherby Lake resident Jennifer Bertrand. It's a chance to lift the curtain on happy times, and repay a debt she thinks of as priceless.

Bertrand gained reality show fame in 2008, winning season three of the HGTV show "Design Star." Two years later, she gave birth to her son Winston, who was born with a condition that caused his lymph nodes to stop secreting fluids.

Bertrand and her family used the Ronald McDonald House in New York City as Winston had crucial medical treatments.

"This is my dream design project," Bertrand said. "Think about it. You get to take happiness and make it spill over into a space."

Bertrand is lending her expertise in architecture and design as a contractor at Kansas City's new Ronald McDonald House on Cherry Street.. The 21,000 square foot home will have room for 20 families who also need help while caring for their sick children.

"Think about it," Bertrand said. "You're going through a lot that's heavy in life. You don't need a space that feels heavy. You want it to feel happy and airy and light like a hug to the soul."

April Hudson is in charge of operations for the Ronald McDonald House . She says Bertrand has been anything but an absentee celebrity.

"I can't think of a day that she hasn't been on site getting her hands dirty," Hudson said. "I can't think of a day. She's hanging stuff and she's fixing stuff up and moving furniture and whatever it takes."

"Here's the thing," Hudson said. "This whole Ronald McDonald House, everyone's a celebrity."

Bertrand said her son is doing better, and just started kindergarten. She will be on hand next Thursday when leaders of the Ronald McDonald House will hold grand opening ceremonies for the brand new house.

Click here for the Ronald McDonald House of Kansas City website.

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