For a three year period that ended in the Fall of 2000, my younger brother spent more nights at the Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland then he did in our home. That meant that at least one, if not all, of the rest of the family staying in Cleveland, too. My Dad manned the couch in Chris’s room every one of those nights, but my Mom and I needed to find an alternate place to stay.
Fortunately, nearby was a Ronald McDonald House. There we were able to get a comfortable bed, a hot shower, and a place to decompress a little after what sometimes felt like endless hours in the hospital. Without it, we’d have been making the 90 minute drive home and back every day or paying for a hotel room. Either option would have stretched out budget/sanity beyond the breaking point after a little while.
If you put yourself in our shoes, it isn’t hard to see how important a Ronald McDonald House an be. And, truthfully, we were in a better position than most of the other families staying there at the time. Many had traveled long distances, even from other countries, so that their children could receive necessary care. Families with a sick child are exhausted and anxious. Having a place to rest their heads each night takes on huge worry off their plates.
Here is Pittsburgh, a joint effort by a children’s oncologist, the McDonald’s Corporation, and the Pittsburgh Steelers helped open our Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) Home in 1979. Even with an expansion, needs grew so much over the years that a new home was opened in 2009, right next to Children’s Hospital in Lawrenceville. In the new House, which include over 70 individual apartments, every family gets to stay in a suite that includes a kitchen and a living room, while larger common areas include a computer room, playroom, and laundry room. Now families stay just a short walk down a connecting corridor from their children. Given the nature of 24/7 medical care, the importance of this feature should not be overlooked.
The Ronald McDonald House here in Pittsburgh goes to great lengths to make itself a home away from home for the visiting families. meals, snacks, paper products, linens and towels are all provided for the guests. Check-in and check-out are both determined by the individual needs of the family once RMHC has been made aware of the need by a hospital social worker.
The McDonald’s Connection
Ronald McDonald Houses have been the charity of choice for the McDonald’s Corporation since their inception in 1974. The support of McDonald’s has allowed the charity to expand to 345 houses worldwide. The corporation is able to support the charity in a wide variety of ways at both the corporate and franchise levels. I’ll direct you to the website for the details on that, but it is important to note that the growth and success of the charity couldn’t happen without the additional support of many corporate and individual donors, as well as the medical community. The House here in Pittsburgh is fortunate to have some great, local corporate partners.
Out of Town and Local
The primary function of RMHC is to provide a home for families who have traveled at least 40 miles so their children can be treated here in Pittsburgh. While most of the families have children being treated at Pittsburgh’s Children’s Hospital, all local hospitals with pediatric units are able to refer a family to the Ronald McDonald’s House.
Here in the city, RMHC also operate a Care Mobile that travels to medically underserved pockets of Western PA to provide; wellness care, sick visits, physical exams, immunizations, and dental care. Staffed by Doctors and Nurses, the 40-foot, state-of-the-art vehicle brings much-needed care to over 1,000 children per year.
There are roles for both individual and group volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House. Some of the ways to do that include, but are not limited to:
-cooking a meal
-brining snacks and planning activities for a family social hour
-planning crafts or a party for children staying at the House
-putting on a performance
-decorating the doors on the residence floors
-creating “welcome bags” for new guests
I really can’t stress enough just how disoriented a family can feel when they are putting all their energies into making certain their sick child is receiving needed attention and care. RMHC fills a huge gap that would otherwise leave families in a position where they would have to decide between leaving their child on their own in the hospital or adding costs to the medical bills that are already starting to pile up.
I’ll close in my usual manner, by encouraging you to consider if helping RMHC with either your time or your money might be something worth looking in to. I’m one of the many thousands served over the last 40+ years who can give a first-hand testimony as to the positive impact this facility can have on a family.