Ronald McDonald House: Children’s Health

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By: Shayley Swanson

For children facing a serious medical crisis, nothing seems scarier than not having their mom and dad close by for love and support, believes the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Texas’ staff and supporters.

By the end of 2015, St. Joseph Regional Health Center in Bryan will be the first hospital in the Brazos Valley to have a Ronald McDonald Family Room located inside the facility.

“Our board is amazing at seeing needs of our patients and families,” says Diana Perez-Graham, vice president and chief nursing officer of St. Joseph. “They have such a true mind for the community and think outside the box in ways to help improve the community.”

Ronald McDonald Family Rooms are supportive environments where families can rest and regroup while being close to their hospitalized children. They are designed to ease the burden for families and allow them to focus on the most important thing – their child’s healing.

“We wanted to give our patients’ families a comfortable place they can go to gather their thoughts without being restricted to the waiting room chairs,” says Perez-Graham.

The Family Rooms are comforting spaces that have living rooms with children’s play areas, dining/kitchens, sleeping rooms, laundry facilities, internet access, and televisions. Simple necessities are also provided such as meals, snacks, and beverages.

“With now having a Level II trauma center and more and more college kids every year, this hospital is seeing patients now more than ever,” says Perez-Graham.

The RMHC Central Texas was built on the simple idea that nothing else should matter when a family is focused on the health of their child. When a child is hospitalized, the love and support of a family is as powerful as the strongest medicine prescribed.

RMHC Family Rooms Provide Comfort Space for FamiliesRMHC CTX began providing a “home-away-from-home” for families and their hospitalized children in 1985 at Austin’s first Ronald McDonald House. In 30 years, RMHC has cared for 15,000 families by providing 90,000 room nights at the Ronald McDonald House and Ronald McDonald Family Rooms.

“The feeling of just being able to have a place to go and wash your hair can be the biggest stress reliever for a mom,” says Katy Scott, director of community engagement Brazos Valley.

Family Rooms are maintained exclusively by volunteers. Volunteers must partake not only in the Ronald McDonald House Charities training, but also in the hospital’s training course. After training, volunteers will cater to each family by cooking meals and even reading stories to the children.

Even though the local Family Room is not yet open, other facilities with Family Rooms serve real needs. In 2014, the North Austin Medical Center Family Rooms had 10,390 visits from 328 families. Dell Children’s Medical Center Family Rooms had 7,535 visits from 255 families. St. David’s Medical Center Family Rooms had 5,437 visits from 208 families.

“No one is ever turned away from the facilities of RMHC,” says Scott. “Money is never a good enough reason to separate a family from their child; that’s why all the amenities are free.”

RMHC Family Rooms Provide Kitchen Facilities for Families with Hospitalized ChildrenThough it hasn’t opened yet, the RMHC Central Texas has received a positive response thus far from the B/CS community. The project has been progressed through donations that have helped fund the project in a few short months. Although RMHC Central Texas is not funded by the McDonald’s Corporation, they are generously supported by the local Central Texas McDonald’s owner/operators. Additional funding is raised through sponsorship and donations.

“The community has been so giving and has the spirit of wanting to help,” says Scott.

Perez-Graham adds, “We, as a hospital, and a community, are very excited for what is to come with the Ronald McDonald Family Rooms.”

Anyone interested in contributing to the Ronald McDonald Family Room wish list or supporting future services may visit rmhc-ctx.org or contact Katy Scott, Director of Community Engagement Brazos Valley at kscott@rmhc-ctx.org.