This Goodwill Spotlight shines on Ronald McDonald House Charities. Ronald McDonald homes are located near a children’s hospital, or a hospital with a significant pediatric program. Rooms look like a typical hotel room, with all amenities, and can hold up to four family members.
The homes provide dinner to the families every night, and along with brunch on Saturdays. These meals are generally donated and prepared by volunteers. For other meals or food needs, families have 24/7 access to a stocked pantry.
The homes offer entertainment and other activities for the families, and a fellowship among those staying there. “The magic of the Ronald McDonald House is meeting other families who are going through something similar,” said Atlanta RMHC President & CEO Beth Howell. “You really start building a bond.”
Ronald McDonald House Charities started in 1974, after Philadelphia Eagles player Fred Hill and his wife spent countless days and nights in the hospital with their daughter, who had been diagnosed with Leukemia. They slept in chairs and on hospital floors, and ate meals out of vending machines. They saw other families doing the same thing, and Fred decided there had to be a better way. After McDonald’s establisher Ray Kroc got on board, the idea spread, and multiple homes were built over the next years.
The Atlanta house was built in 1979, the 4th RMHC house in the world. Starting with eight bedrooms, it then expanded to 16. In 2008, in underwent renovations to accommodate 50 bedrooms. The second Atlanta home was built in 1994, with 11 bedrooms. This year it will be restructured to have 31 bedrooms, making Atlanta RMHC’s total rooms it offers to families up to 81.
“A hospital stay is extremely stressful for child and their family,” Howell said. “When they don’t have that kind of support that cuts into their time with the child. With us, they can be with the child from the time the child wakes up until the time the child goes to bed.”
Atlanta RMHC has served more than 45,000 families, and Howell said they have seen so many success stories. She spoke of Michael Sloan, who at age seven drowned in a pool, and was without oxygen for seven minutes. His mother was able to stay at the Atlanta RMHC for 60 days while he underwent treatment and rehabilitation. Told he would never respond to stimuli, he can now watch TV. Told that he would never be able to raise his limbs, he is now working on taking steps through physical therapy.
Michael’s mom has become a strong advocate for RMHC, taking to social media to talk about the support and help she received. “They have hope and they are working really hard to give their child the best that they can give them,” Howell said.
Atlanta RMHC relies on support for organizations and individuals, both financially and for volunteers. To learn more or how you can support visit www.armhc.org.