“ A charity aimed to directly improve the health and well being of children, as well as, helping families in need. „
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Ronald McDonald House Charities
When our children are seriously ill we all take it for granted that our local hospitals will be able to cope with the demands of their illness. Sometimes however this is not the cases as specialist care is often required in treatment centres which can be several hundred miles away from home. The logistics of this nightmare often prevent families from being able to stay together for any length of time, as often only one parent is able to be with them due to the limited space available in these units. This can be heartbreaking and puts an enormous strain on the family unit. Ronald McDonald House Charities however try to combat this problem by providing a facility. "A Home Away From Home" where the family unit can remain together during the child's stay in hospital.
It was while eating in my local McDonald's recently that I first became aware of Ronald McDonald House Charities. You have probably noticed the collection tins and posters available which highlight this cause. Being the curious person that I am I asked one of the staff if they would tell me a little bit more about the project. I however didn't get to far with my quest for answers, and the only information I managed to seek out was that it was at York hill Children's Hospital in Glasgow. Information which I gleaned from a kind member of the public who had over-heard my conversation and lack of response from the helpful employee!! I was extremely curious and ended up researching this charity myself. I am so glad that I did and am looking forward to hopefully being accepted as a volunteer for this organisation in the very near future.
A little bit of history. The concept of Ronald McDonald Houses is not exclusive to this country indeed their houses and play centres are available all over the world. The original idea came to fruition in 1974. A house was built so that families could remain close to their loved ones while they were undergoing treatment in hospital. Fred Hills a prominent American footballer of his time decided to raise money to provide a facility whereby parents could wait comfortably for their children instead of hanging about in hospital waiting rooms. His daughter had died of leukaemia and he was appalled at the lack of facilities available for the families of sick children. With a combination of community fundraising and the local McDonald's selling shamrock shakes they managed to raise enough money to build this facility next to the local hospital. The first Ronald McDonald House Charities were originally set up ten years after this event and predominantly in memory of McDonald's founder Ray Kroc who had bought over the small fledgling company from its original founders and turned the operation into the success story it is today. Hence the charity became known as Ronald McDonald House as a tribute to his life and love of children.
It has to be pointed out that the McDonald Corporation itself does not own or operate any of these houses; they do however actively support the cause by providing free equipment and services to reduce the overall running costs of the facilities and furthermore raise public awareness and promotes fundraising activities. Ray Kroc's wife donated a further $60 million dollars to these charities in 1994. I was under the misapprehension that McDonald's actually pays for these houses outright however this is completely inaccurate. They do however cover all of the administration costs of the houses and rooms via a grant which means that effectively every penny made through collection goes straight to the houses without deduction. They do not have any jurisdiction or ownership rights regarding how the charities are run. This is a completely separate entity from the McDonald's restaurant chain with the only link being the actual name.
Impressive statistics, I discovered that there are 284 Ronald McDonald houses worldwide. These are used to accommodate families whose children have had to travel long distances to get hospital treatment, and also for long-term hospitalised children. The length of treatment is no barrier to getting accommodation here. The facilities allow families to stay together and be near to the hospital where their children are being cared for.
Ronald McDonald House Charities were first introduced to the UK in 1989. There are Ronald McDonald houses and family rooms in children's hospitals and hospices around the country. I had a look at the RMHC website and discovered to my surprise that there are actually 10 Ronald McDonald houses and 26 family rooms in the UK. Furthermore there are two currently under construction at the time of writing this review.
York hill Glasgow
This house is located right next to the children's hospital and is a very attractive modern building. The facility opened in 1996 and provides completely free accommodation for the families of sick or injured children. Stays are accommodated from one night to over a year!!! The cost of running this house is £300,000 per year and is funded completely by charitable donations. They have a programme of fundraising activities here throughout the year which includes parachuting, abseiling, and walking. To the more impressive Kilimanjaro summit climb. You have to have a minimum sponsorship to be able to take part in any of these fundraising activities and help to raise money for the house.
The York hill edition consists of a main house and adjacent family flats. The main house has 26 bedrooms which have a direct telephone link to the child's ward enabling contact to be established day or night. The house is less than a minute from the hospital; there are three sitting rooms, a library, and a kitchen dining area, playroom and a laundry facility. Families can interact with others who have sick children too, or remain in a quiet area where they will not be disturbed. There is a lovely garden with play area and private parking. The flats are adjacent to the house and provide accommodation for larger families. It really is a home away from home.
The charity is always on the look-out for volunteers to help run the houses. If you are interested in sparing a few hours a week to help such a wonderful cause then find your local Ronald McDonald house and contact them. Furthermore you can also raise money by signing up for one of their pre-arranged charitable events, or why not arrange one yourself. Otherwise just pop a few coins in the tin at the counter the next time you visit McDonald's. It really helps keep families together in difficult times. A real home away from home.