If you have ever had a loved one sick with a serious illness, you know how life is turned upside down. Your ability to work is impeded by worry, and day-to-day necessities like eating and sleeping take the back burner to the nurturing of the one you care about. Having a sick child may be the most devastating scenario of all.
What if there was an organization that cared for families with sick or injured children, and met every one of their needs? What if that organization went the extra mile to provide all kinds of comforts, as a service to suffering families?
That organization exists. It’s in your community and you can be a part of it.
A few weeks ago, Austinot Eric and I had the privilege of touring the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) of Austin. Although both of us had volunteered at other Ronald McDonald Houses in the past, I had an incomplete picture of how RMHC functions and how much it provides for the community.
Before I met Jan Gunter, the Communications Manager of RMHC – Austin, I knew that the Ronald McDonald House was a place where families could stay while their child was hospitalized. I also (incorrectly) assumed that every House is funded by McDonald’s corporate. That’s where my “knowledge” ended.
Our time with Jan was an eye-opening experience that I’m very grateful for. I share my new understanding with you in hopes that you’ll come to value this incredible organization in our community, and get involved!
How the Ronald McDonald House Works
If you have a child 18 years old or younger who needs to be hospitalized or needs to visit a hospital for treatment, you can stay at the Ronald McDonald House. The only condition is that your permanent residence be at least 25 miles away from the hospital.
It doesn’t matter what your income level is; everyone is welcomed for a nominal fee of $10/night per family. The average stay is 11 days, but stays can range from two nights to nearly a year.
This is cool enough, but RMHC is far more than a place to sleep. As I talked about before, the sickness of a child can take a toll on the whole family.
The RMHC does an incredible job of taking care of every necessity, so that families can focus on being together and getting better.
What does this actually look like?
- Volunteers come daily to prepare, cook and serve food to families
- Laundry room is free to use
- Complimentary fitness room is available on site
- Dell-donated computers are in each of the 30 rooms
- There is a tricked-out game room
- Three beautiful rooftop gardens provide a peaceful get-away
Not only are basic needs met, but the Ronald McDonald House goes beyond necessities to provide true comfort and care.
Here’s a cute video made about a year and a half ago that exhibits the spirit of Austin’s RMHC:
What Makes Austin’s Ronald McDonald House Special
As we toured the building, I was mind-boggled by the lengths the designers traveled to create an environmentally sensitive and healthy environment:
- The building features a unique system that allows rooms to have their own air!
- All rooms have natural light except bathrooms and closets.
- The roof is white to reflect the sun.
- Solar panels power 15 of 30 rooms.
- The building is positioned to intake the most heat in the Winter and the least in the Summer.
- The building is cooled with cold water, with a thermostatic system built specifically for RMHC – Austin.
- Flooring and stonework are made partially from recycled materials.
How the Ronald McDonald House Is Funded
I mentioned earlier that I always assumed that the Ronald McDonald House got all of its funding directly from McDonald’s as a corporation. I was wrong. The Ronald McDonald House in Austin is managed right here in Austin and funded locally. Though the House does receive some Medicaid funding, there are almost 70 McDonald’s in the Greater Austin Area that are responsible for about 17% of the operating budget of our Austin Ronald McDonald House. The generous local owners of those McDonald’s regularly donate to the RMHC. Plus, donation boxes that Austinites like you contribute to stay local and serve families in our community.
I don’t know about you, but this makes a big difference to me. Because I know that Austin’s Ronald McDonald House relies on local funding, I feel like there’s a place for me to get involved and contribute.
How You Can Get Involved in the Ronald McDonald House of Austin
There are three key ways you can get involved:
There is an exciting volunteer opportunity that has just been announced. RMHC is opening a Ronald McDonald Family Room at St. David’s Medical Center in June. They are in serious need of 30 volunteers to work weekly 4-hour shifts to support families at St. David’s. Volunteers must go through orientation and be approved before volunteering, so this is a time-sensitive opportunity. Please visit this page if you are interested in volunteering.
In 2011, 1,300 families were served by Austin’s Ronald McDonald House. I am absolutely behind this Austin non-profit, and I hope you get behind it too! Let’s build up the Austin community by caring for families in their time of need.
How have YOU been impacted by the Ronald McDonald House?