Home Away From Home

January 1, 2006 by  
Filed under Edit

It is a parent’s worst nightmare. The doctor tells you that your child is seriously ill and will require lengthy hospital stays and outpatient treatments. Numerous questions race through your mind: Will my child be all right? Where will I stay while my child is hospitalized? Will the hospital let me stay in the room? What will the rest of my family do? Can I afford a hotel in the area?

In this time of desperation, Ronald McDonald House of Houston is here for you. Opening its doors in 1981, the house offers a “home away from home” to the families of seriously ill children being treated at Texas Medical Center institutions (namely Texas Children’s Hospital).

A home
Each year an average of more than 700 families spend more than 16,000 nights at the Ronald McDonald House on Holcombe Boulevard, dubbed “Holcombe House.” The 50-bedroom home is complete with an eight-station kitchen, special-needs kitchen, dining room, play areas and laundry facility, as well as a one-room school. This school room provides a quiet area for teachers from Houston ISD to study with school-age patients to ensure that they won’t fall behind in school work. There are also summer school programs for patients and their siblings. Every month, local organizations, including McDonald’s Restaurant Owners, Houston Junior Woman’s Club and Southwest Airlines, cook meals for the families staying at Holcombe House. These events offer the families a communal atmosphere that helps the house feel more like home.

In addition to providing a place to stay, the house also offers families a place to meet with others that are in similar circumstances. These families are there not only to console one another, but also to give each other the strength to make it through this difficult time. It is a comfort to the families at Holcombe House to know they are not alone and they are not the only ones coping with the heartbreak and devastation of childhood illness.

Break from typical waiting room
In 2001 and 2002, the Ronald McDonald House opened Family Rooms at Texas Children’s Hospital to give the loved ones of seriously ill children a more caring environment away from the typical hospital waiting rooms. Designed to group together families dealing with similar illnesses, one Family Room is for those with children being treated in-patient for cancer and blood diseases while another is in the Texas Children’s Cancer Center Outpatient Clinic and is designed for families of children receiving outpatient treatments. Inside Texas Children’s Hospital is the third Family Room, which is more like another Ronald McDonald House. It is complete with 20 bedrooms for families with children in the Intensive Care Units at Texas Children’s Hospital. The folks at Ronald McDonald House know how important it is to allow families to be surrounded by others who understand the emotions they are feeling.

Ronald’s friends
The Friends of the Ronald McDonald House of Houston consists of a group of volunteers that raise funds for the house through dues and fundraisers. They organize five holiday parties each year at the house and decorate, plan entertainment and cook meals for the children and families of Holcombe House.

A group of young professionals, The Young Friends of the Ronald McDonald House of Houston, provide monthly meals and activities for the families and children at the house. They coordinate activities, including trips to the zoo and bowling parties, as well as arts and crafts. For the teenagers at the house who desire more grown-up entertainment, Teens Night Out offers dinner at a restaurant or a movie at the theater.

Donating to the cause
Since families only pay a small portion of the actual amount it takes to run the house, the Ronald McDonald House of Houston relies on generous contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations. The house always accepts monetary donations, which can be made in a loved one’s honor or memory if desired. In fact, many employers match the contributions made by their employees – so you might check and see what your company’s policy is.

Through the pull tab (or soda can tab) program, the Ronald McDonald House of Houston collects pull tabs and recycles them to raise money for the house’s operating budget. Since the tabs are pure aluminum, they are worth more at recycling centers. You can also help the house when you shop at Kroger or Randalls. The Kroger Share Card and the Randalls Remarkable Card can be used to have a percentage of your purchases donated to the Ronald McDonald House of Houston.

Lend a helping hand
The gift of time is always appreciated at the Ronald McDonald House of Houston. With a variety of volunteer opportunities and time commitments, you are sure to find an opportunity that suits your talents and schedule. Shift volunteers are asked to volunteer for six hours a month and must be at least 18 years old. Shifts are organized in three-hour blocks. (Volunteers for the business office, development, special activities and family activities are not considered shift volunteers.) Opportunities range from greeting and registering families to filing or helping at special events. H

Ronald McDonald House of Houston, (713) 795-3500, www.ronaldmcdonaldhousehouston.org

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