Families can find solace at the Ronald McDonald House

Officials gearing up for public open houses in November

As the Ronald McDonald House gets closer to completion, the focus turns to families who will use the facility.

Families using the House will have children or loved ones in the hospital and some of the patients will even stay in the facility. The House will give family members a home away from home and a place to unwind.

The 11-suite, 27,000 sq. ft. facility, located at 3908 50 Ave., will open to families this fall. The House will be built to hospital standards to ensure the wellness of children who are recuperating from illness as well as the family members staying with them. The facility will have a special care nursery.

In June, officials with the Ronald McDonald House announced that they had reached their campaign goal. Twelve million dollars was raised to build the facility.

Operating costs will be about $1.1 million annually.

“We think we’ll see about 400 families per year,” said Larry Mathieson, executive director of Ronald McDonald House Central Alberta. “We’ll see families and kids for all sorts of reasons but there will be a good number of families here because they have babies who are medically fragile.

“We’ll see families where mom is at bedside and the dad will stay in the House and they’ll swap out. The House provides family members with a solace and more than anything we want the whole family to be together so this gives them that opportunity.”

The charge to stay in the House is $12 per night and to a family who may be in Red Deer for a couple of months while their loved one is in the hospital, it is very affordable.

“The cost to provide the services are quite a bit more – in Red Deer it’ll probably be $100 a night and that difference we make up by fundraising,” said Mathieson. “However, we don’t ever turn a family away if they can’t afford to pay the $12. If families are eligible for support from the province than we help them get that and if they are not eligible and they just can’t pay it then we eat that cost.”

There will also be room in the Ronald McDonald House for families who live close by but are spending their days at the hospital with loved ones.

“We have a couple of rooms that people who are spending a lot of time at the hospital can come and relax in , watch TV and have a coffee. We will have supports for families who live in Red Deer who use the hospital so they don’t have to go home four or five times a day.”

He added the House will also allow for families to support each other while they’re staying there.

“No one really knows what you’re going through like someone else who is going through similar situations,” said Mathieson. “We design not only the building but the programming to facilitate support. In this building we’ve built a communal kitchen so families can cook together.”

There will also be programming for families to partake in while they stay at the House.

“Our programming allows for families to forget even for a moment what they are going through. Activities will be organized for the whole family and for just kids as well. In Calgary we have recreational and educational programs.”

In addition Mathieson said there will be many opportunities for community members to volunteer once the House is open.

“We will have opportunities for host volunteers to check families in when they arrive. We will have volunteer dinner groups and who cook meals for the families as well as recreation volunteers like magicians or clowns to provide entertainment.”

As for opening the House, Mathieson said the goal is to have families staying at the facility before the Christmas season.

“We will begin announcing our open house dates which should be around November so we can show the public what we’ve built before families move in.”