Giving Back: Ronald McDonald House

The local Ronald McDonald House opened in May of 1984, just ten years after the national charity began. There are currently more than 360 Ronald McDonald houses around the world. Most of them are in the United States, Canada, and Australia. Although McDonald’s is a corporate sponsor, the houses are not solely supported by the fast food franchise. In fact, most of their funding comes from the community through private donations and contributions from individuals, corporations, and foundations.

2007-10-10-00-00-31The Roanoke location is an 18 bedroom home for families whose children are patients at Carilion Clinic or being treated by a doctor in Roanoke. Over their lifetime, this location has served more than 25,000 families. In addition to the house itself, they also maintain a room on the 14th floor of the Carilion Clinic Children’s Hospital. The Ronald McDonald Family Room serves as a respite area for adult family members and guests of hospitalized children.

“It is a quiet space,” says Jeanne Bollendorf, Director of Community Development. “We have snacks, coffee, and phones. We have computers and Wi-Fi there. It is a comfortable place for people to regroup while still at the hospital. That way they aren’t too far away from their child’s bedside.”

As for the house itself, guests are chosen through a direct referral system. Nurses, social workers, or medical staff at doctor’s offices send families in need to each independently-operated Ronald McDonald House. In our area, many of those families live in Southwest Virginia. Some, however, would have a much longer drive if they had to go home every night.

“Families that stay at the house have to live at least 25 miles outside of Roanoke,” explains Jeanne. “A lot of families come from two or three hours away. They would spend more time on the road than they did with their child if they didn’t stay here.”

Regardless of where the family is from, the time and services they receive from the Ronald McDonald House are priceless.

“One of the things we’ve always done is give out baby blankets to families with a new baby. So many people that I meet out in the community will say, ‘We stayed at the house, and our son is 18. He still has his quilt from the Ronald McDonald House.’ I really love to hear those stories,” says Jeanne.

If you want to help with the needs of the Ronald McDonald House, you can donate in-kind donations like pantry items for the home and the hospital respite room, paper products, toiletries, and cleaning supplies. Of course, monetary donations are welcome and greatly appreciated.

You can also donate your time. Families staying at the Ronald McDonald House receive a cooked meal every night from a group of volunteers. Additionally, the Family Room at Carilion Clinic Children’s Hospital is managed by volunteers and would be a great place to help out families that truly need it this holiday season.

For more information on Roanoke’s Ronald McDonald House and how you can help out, visit www.rmhc-swva.org.

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