Disclosure: I am a social ambassador for McDonald’s. I am being compensated for this Ronald McDonald House post. However, all opinions and thoughts are my own. #mcdambassador
When I was a kid, I had several surgeries at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. During one of the surgeries, my family and I were set up to stay at the Ronald McDonald House of Arkansas. Being seven or eight at the time, my worries of the surgery were squashed by my excitement of staying at “Ronald’s house.”
I won’t pretend to have clear memories of everything about that stay, but I remember it was a pleasant stay and that my parents spoke favorably of it. And no doubt my parents welcomed the fact that my attention went from pesky what if questions to questions about the guy with the red hair.
A few years ago, one of my longtime best friends, Jenny, and her daughter stayed as long term guests at the Ronald McDonald House of New Orleans while her daughter, my goddaughter, received eight months of daily treatments at a nearby medical facility. For Jenny, who lives hours away from the medical facility, the opportunity to stay at a Ronald McDonald House allowed her to focus on her daughter’s daily treatments and progress rather than on the financial and logistical issues that typically come with staying away from home.
“The Ronald McDonald House was a light in the midst of dark and financial tough times,” said Jenny. “We would not have been able to stay eight months in a hotel.”
Although Jenny stayed in a different Ronald McDonald House than I did, there is no doubt that Ronald McDonald House Charities affected both of our families in a positive way.
I was thrilled when I learned that the Ronald McDonald House of Arkansas had started a “Where Hope Has a Home” campaign to raise funds to construct a larger house to meet growing needs. The current house, in its original location near Arkansas Children’s Hospital, is loved and held in high regard. However, after providing shelter to several thousands of families over the last 35 years, the house is worn and lacks the space needed for growth. Currently, the 28-bedroom house boasts communal bathrooms and a tight dining space.
I spoke with Emily Piechocki, Development Director for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Arkansas, about the plans for the new Ronald McDonald House which is scheduled to open by November of this year.
“The current house has bedrooms with communal bathrooms. In the new house, every bedroom will have its own private bathroom. We are going from 28 to 32 bedrooms, but the quality and the space that the families will have will be much improved. Each family will have a suite with a bedroom, a bathroom, and a sitting area with a couch with a pull-out bed.”
Piechocki provided all photos for this post on behalf of Ronald McDonald House Charities. Here is a computer-generated rendering of the bedroom suite.
Dinner is provided nightly for the families staying at the house. However, due to space limitations, the families must eat in shifts at the current location which only offers seating for 18 or so people although the House normally feeds around 60 a night.
“The new house is going to address space and quality needs. The new space will have dining and seating for 80 so the families will not have to eat in shifts,” said Piechocki.
Additionally, the new house will offer family living rooms and lounge areas, a work space for volunteers, a well-being salon, lactation areas, laundry facilities, a board meeting room, and other spaces.
Also, there will be an indoor playroom, an outdoor playground, a half basketball court, and a wellness garden with a tree house and a large slide.
“We will have a multi-media room which will cater to the teenagers we serve. Currently, our play room is geared for children ages seven or eight or younger. We want to have something for our teenagers, too. The house is going to be bigger and better in every way.”
Piechocki explained that Central Arkansas McDonald’s Co-Op gave the first donation – one million dollars – toward the overall construction campaign. Central Arkansas McDonald’s had faith in the overall project and was instrumental in helping to kick off the campaign, said Piechocki. Because of its donation, Central Arkansas McDonald’s, was awarded a naming opportunity for the beacon that sits atop the new Ronald McDonald House.
“The Beacon of Hope is designed to be a literal night light for families. When children look out of the windows at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, they can see the night light where their parents are staying.”
Piechocki added there would soon be a topping out ceremony for the building. She explained that a topping out ceremony is a kind of tradition with construction projects where the last element on the structural piece of the building.
“Our overall goal for the campaign is $8.7 million, and we have raised $8.4 million. We have about $300,000 left to go, and we hope to raise that by September. There are naming opportunities for the individual rooms of the house and there are other ways to give also.”
For instance, Ronald McDonald House Charities is selling hearts that people can buy to hang on a “heart wall” of the fifth floor. There are three sizes of the acrylic hearts which are available for purchase, and the proceeds of the hearts go toward the overall “Where Hope Has a Home” capital campaign. So far, hearts have been purchased by churches, fraternities, banks, individuals, and optimist groups. Any individual, family, or organization may purchase a heart to help contribute to the house and to the campaign.
More information on the process of purchasing a heart, naming opportunities, and general donations may be found at the Ronald McDonald House website (insert link: http://www.rmhclittlerock.org/capital-campaign/). How awesome would it be to name a room or contribute to the heart wall?!
One thing I find really cool about the RMHCA website is that there is a live camera where you can actually see the progress of the construction thus far. This link will take you to a time lapse video which is updated weekly.
I cannot wait to see the house when it is finished! And now that I know the significance of the Beacon of Hope, it might just give me chills when I see it all lit up in person. We all hope our children will never need significant medical treatment or that we will never need to rely on an organization to provide support. But one family is as vulnerable as the next when it comes to health. Thank goodness organizations like the Ronald McDonald House exist to help in unexpected times of need.