Ronald McDonald House set to welcome first guests

The first families will begin moving into the Ronald McDonald House in Red Deer at the end of the month.

This past weekend the House was open to the public for tours as the project nears completion. A formal ribbon cutting will take place Feb. 27th and families will begin moving into the new facility that day.

“This is Red Deer’s gift to Alberta families,” said Larry Mathieson, executive director of Ronald McDonald House Central Alberta. “We are so excited to open the doors.”

The 11-suite, 27,000 sq. ft. facility, located at 3908 50 Ave., is nearing completion as the finishing touches are currently being done. The House has been 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 also has a special care nursery.

Last 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 and fundraising will be ongoing to raise that money.

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.

Each floor is equipped with washers and dryers as well as a sitting area with a television. There is also a ‘magic room’ where kids can forget about their family’s stresses and play in the secret toy room. A large kitchen is the focal point of the main floor, which also showcases a library and sitting area as well as a playroom and a craft room.

“We know right now on the average day there is over 30 children that come to the hospital from out of the City, so we know that every day if we had 30 rooms in here likely we could fill most of them,” said Mathieson. “Probably by the end of the first week that we open, we will be full and we will have to manage that waiting list with the social workers with the hospital.”

He added it has been rewarding to see the Ronald McDonald House progress and with the final touches being done, the excitement continues to build.

“When we were looking at this snow-covered lot a couple of years ago and it slopes like a saddle and it slopes down – we had board meetings where board members said ‘you are going to build this house and it’s going to slide right into Gaetz Avenue’. To get through all those hoops to the place we are now is very exciting to say the least.”