When a House becomes a Home: The Ronald McDonald House
Many hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) and congenital heart defect families have experienced the love and support that overflow in Ronald McDonald Houses (RMH) around the world. With 368 houses in 64 countries, patients and families are thankful to call the House a home when medical care takes them away from their own1.
The first House opened in Philadelphia in 1974 after Kim Hill, daughter of Eagle’s player Fred Hill, was treated for leukemia2. After three years of sleeping on hospital chairs, eating out of vending machines, and meeting other families who couldn’t afford hotels, Fred and his wife Fran decided to find a better way. They enlisted the help of Eagle’s teammates, the team’s General Manager, the head of pediatric oncology at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and the local McDonald’s advertising agency to raise money. The Shamrock Shake was introduced locally as a promotion with funds going to purchase an old house near the hospital. Since then, over 10 million families have found comfort in RMHs around the world.
The rooms and services at all RMHs are offered to families at no cost. Yet, the biggest reason families choose to stay is because of the community atmosphere and support they can share with other families who are experiencing similar challenges. (You can read stories from guests of the Rochester Minnesota RMH on their blog, or visit your local House’s website.)
All Houses offer home-cooked meals, private bedrooms, and playrooms for kids. Some also have suites for immune-compromised children, educational programs, recreational activities, and support services for siblings3.
The Todd and Karen Wanek Family Program for HLHS is grateful to our local RMH for their incredible support of patients and families at Mayo Clinic! The House has been undergoing a major expansion since May 2018, and we’re excited for the Grand Opening on May 17, 2019! According to Jacob Dyer, Communications Director of the RMH of Rochester, MN:
"From 2013-2017, the House provided shelter to an average of 848 families per year…. The expansion increases the number of guests rooms from 42 to 70, making it the largest RMH in the state of Minnesota, the 11th largest in the United States, and 17th largest in the world based on number of guest rooms."
Additionally, the new space will include an indoor activity play area, large outdoor backyard with playground, basketball hoop, and grills, adult spaces for meditation and physical activity, and underground parking – an amenity that’s much appreciated during Minnesota winters! The existing part of the House will undergo renovations over this summer to expand the Community Room and Craft Room, as well as add a food co-op/grocery area providing fresh and healthy foods.
The Houses in each community are supported by a tremendous network of volunteers. This creates a unique environment that reflects the local area and supports the needs of guests in each particular community. There are so many ways that individuals and groups can support their House! Financial donations are always needed, but volunteers give their time and energy to make the House a home for kids and families.
Many houses offer meals, activities, blankets, toys, or other gifts which are all provided by volunteers. Some make a Shopping List, Amazon, or Target Registry with specific items that are needed. Kids can even get involved by collecting pop tabs to raise money!
Find your local RMH chapter for more ways that you can help!
Special thanks to Jacob Dyer with our local RMH for providing information on the House and how volunteers can get involved.
The Todd and Karen Wanek Family Program for Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) is a collaborative network of specialists bonded by the vision of finding solutions for individuals affected by congenital heart defects including HLHS. The specialized team is addressing the various aspects of these defects by using research and clinical strategies ranging from basic science to diagnostic imaging to regenerative therapies. Email the program at HLHS@mayo.edu to learn more.