COMING TOGETHER - Larry Mathieson

COMING TOGETHER - Larry Mathieson

Ronald McDonald more than just a house

The new Ronald McDonald house is more than just an ordinary house.

At a cost of about $12 million, the 11-suite facility 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.

“When you build a house like this we have some unique challenges, and one of those challenges is because of the kids that we will serve we have to build a facility that takes into account things like the air handling system and filtration,” said Larry Mathieson, executive director of Ronald McDonald House for southern Alberta. “When you’re designing a building like this some of the costs are very similar to those of a hospital.”

He added another challenge cost-wise for the Ronald McDonald House is trying to make the facility seem like a home and not an institution.

“For anybody that stays in this house we want it to feel as much like home as possible,” said Mathieson. “You have the additional costs with trying to design a building that takes into consideration those more industrial type needs but also a place that takes on the look and feel of someone’s home.”

He added the site of the Ronald McDonald House (3908 50 Ave.) has also been a challenge.

“The lot slopes way down to Gaetz Avenue but it also slopes like a saddle as well,” said Mathieson, adding officials with the Ronald McDonald House almost walked away from that location more than once because of its development challenges. “We considered those factors but the proximity to the hospital was such an important factor for us. We want the house to be so close that the families can walk to and from the hospital essentially.”

Operating costs for the Ronald McDonald House will cost about $1.1 million annually.

“This will not only be for the maintenance of the house, but we have programs that run for the families,” said Mathieson. “These will include education programs and we’ve seen the value of these programs in other houses, so we are planning to have them from the get go.”

Mathieson anticipates the home will serve upwards of 400 families each year.

Families are charged $12 per night to stay there.

“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.”

In addition, fundraising for the Ronald McDonald House is going well, but more donations are needed.

“We have about $11.1 million raised so that really gives us 10 months to raise the last $900,000,” said Mathieson. “We’re fairly optimistic as the community has been very generous.”

The Ronald McDonald House is expected to open in Red Deer next fall.