Last year when our baby arrived early our family was introduced to the Ronald McDonald House in Hamilton, Ontario.
When the hospital’s social worker had first offered me the opportunity to stay at the house I immediately said “No”. I envisioned a hostel(hotel for travelers) style environment where I was sharing facilities with people I had never met before. Once we realized our baby would be staying at the hospital for a long time I decided to check into the house for a few nights just to see. All I have to say is WOW!! My husband and I have stayed at many beautiful hotels during our travels, but none as nice as this house. The rooms were not only spacious, but newly decorated and very clean. The first floor had a huge kitchen with facilities for 3 families to cook at a time plus a patio with a barbecue. There was a huge family room, laundry room, dining room (10 tables) and a games room in the basement. All for $10.00 per day.
Each house is run with the same goal of providing a compassionate and safe “home away from home” for families of seriously ill children who are receiving treatment at local children’s hospitals. They cater to over 600 families per year. Twenty percent of their funding comes from McDonald’s Corporation and the rest is made up with donations from various corporations and individuals. A stay at the house would usually be 75.00 per night but it is subsidized so that families can stay near their children. The cost varies with each location from $10.00 – $15.00 per night. Volunteers are the heart of the house with many assisting guests, cleaning the common rooms and preparing dinner for the families.
During our three months at the RMH we met many families who had babies in the NICU like us. It was comforting to have other people in the same situation to talk to after a hectic day was over. Some of the people we met will be our friend for years to come. Our son was able to have us close to him every day. We were able to spend 12 hours a day with him without having to worry about driving 1 hour there and back. RMH gave us a pager so that the hospital could get a hold of us day or night if necessary. I don’t know what we would have done if this house wasn’t there for us to stay in.
In Canada, there are 12 Ronald McDonald Houses and each one is owned and operated by a local community non-profit with a volunteer board of directors. While each house has the “home away from home” atmosphere amenities may vary from house to house.
You never know when you are going to need to stay at a Ronald McDonald House. Take some time to learn about the charity. Donations keep the house going and each location has a list of amenities you can donate as well. Small things such as gift certificates to local stores, DVDs for the families to watch, or movie passes for a night away are always welcome.