AUSTIN, Texas — Families with sick children in the hospital had their spirits lifted at the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Texas Lights of Love event.

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The festival brought holiday games, cookie decorations and a visit from Santa Claus to families who will have to celebrate the holidays away from home with a child in the hospital. Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Texas CEO Carolyn Schwarz said the event is a much needed escape for these families during a tough time in their lives.

"There's never a good time to have a sick kid, but when your kid gets sick during the holidays that's even harder for families," Schhwarz said. "They're coming out tonight to have fun along with our community members just to feel like a normal kid again. Like a normal family."

There are 15 families currently staying in the house that may have to be there through the rest of the year. Ana Hernandez remembers when that was her reality one year ago. Her daughter Elena had to spend seven months in the NICU after being born premature."

"We spent pretty much everything there. New years and halloween," Hernandez said. "It was very instrumental in allowing us to have a place to be together as a family and also supporting us in every single way."

The lights that covered the tree and the house lit up signaling the night was coming to a close. The families staying in the house went back to tend to their children with their hopes renewed. They knew that the staff at Ronald McDonald House and the hundreds of supporters that made the night special were committed to seeing them through this tough time.

"You know sometimes we’ve had families show up on our doorstep on christmas eve and that is so unexpected," Schwarz said. "We love to look them in the eye and say we’ve got you covered."