Ronald McDonald House Charities UK (RMHCUK) is an independent charity that provides free ‘home away from home’ accommodation and support for families with children in hospital.
Ronald McDonald House Cardiff opened in July 2017 and is celebrating their anniversary today, throwing their doors open for a day of family fun. Since opening Ronald McDonald House Cardiff has supported more than 500 families. The House can accommodate up to 30 families each night, while their child is at Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital. I was delighted to be asked go along to the Cardiff Family Fun Day to celebrate its one-year anniversary, although a few last minute hitches at our end mean I might not make it in the end.
Celebrating Ronald McDonald House in Cardiff
There are currently 14 Ronald McDonald Houses across the UK. Last year they supported over 8000 families. Since 1989 these Houses have supported and given a place to stay to more than 60,000 families helping to make the toughest times just that little bit easier. Cardiff is the most recent addition, but they intend to build more. Imagine how many more families could be helped!
But why is that important? Can’t families just travel to the hospital. It’s true many can, but these are often specialist units with families having to travel long distances and with their children admitted in locations far away from the family. This puts a stress on everyone.
About the Houses
RMHCUK Houses are based close to hospitals where children are receiving specialist treatment. RMHCUK accommodation provides everything you would have in your own home – bedrooms, a kitchen and communal areas. This means that you have space and quiet areas for your other children, and could even work remotely for your employer, taking away many of the logistical stresses and strains on you and your family which you don’t need when you have a child in hospital. Families can cook, clean, rest and be together, all the time knowing that they are only moments away from their child in hospital.
You’ll see what I mean if you take a look at the Cardiff house:
How this helps children and parents
When a child is in hospital their family can often be faced with having to travel long distances each day and either pay for costly hotel rooms or sleep on a chair at their bedside if they’re staying overnight. You worry that something might happen on the long drive home. You worry that you won’t get to the hospital in time. You worry that you can’t afford the travel and accommodation. You worry about your other kids and you’re not spending enough time with them. You worry that your employer might get fed up with your time off. You worry that you’re bringing your family up in a hospital. The list is endless.
Ronald McDonald Houses provide families with a comfortable place to stay that’s close to their child and to the treatment centre, giving them more time and energy to focus on being together, which they can stay for as long as they need – be it a matter of days, months or even years. It gives children continuity and makes their journey less scary and creates a better environment for families and siblings.
I have been fortunate enough to not be faced with this, but I did grow up with one of my parents needing specialist treatment in London, often being away for weeks and months at a time. This happens less frequently now but I know personally the cost and time implications of being hours away from your loved one, and the emotional burden it takes on you of not being able to be by their bedside for prolonged periods. There have been times when I’ve looked at contingency planning for unpaid leave, hotels and travel. I can’t imagine the additional distress of it if its your child. You don’t want to have to travel hours to be with them, and you may not be able to afford hotels. I’ve done my share of sleeping in chairs in a ward and it’s not ideal.
How can you help?
Ronald McDonald is an independent charity and relies heavily on the support and generosity of volunteers, fundraisers and donors.
RMHCUK’s biggest corporate support is McDonalds, and it’s been the chain’s charity of choice since 1989 when the charity was funded. The donation boxes at the tills in McDonalds restaurants are primarily used to build new houses. £3 million was raised last year in collection boxes, so please drop your change in one next time you’re picking up a Happy Meal or a coffee.
There are lots of others ways you can get involved , like shopping online or fundraising. You can also share their social media posts and website to raise awareness.
Thank you Ronald McDonald House Charities for a wonderful day out celebrating your success and for the great work you do supporting families of children in hospital.