Photo by Kris Hanning
Imagine this scenario: your child has been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness and has to be treated at a hospital far away from your home. You are terrified when you arrive at the hospital and the logistical reality of your situation begins to sink in. How will you afford a hotel and food for weeks or months at a time? How long will you be away? Will the rest of your family be able to come with you for support? Where will you find the strength?
This is why the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) was created. While concerned parents care for their hospitalized children, RMHC takes care of everything else to make an overwhelming situation as bearable as possible.
As one of more than 315 Ronald McDonald Houses across the world, RMHC of Southern Arizona has been providing a home away from home for families of children facing serious illness or injury since Feb. 14, 1981. The 28-bedroom Tucson house has four kitchens, laundry facilities and all the other comforts and features of a regular home. Volunteers and staff work to ensure all of a family’s needs are taken care of, including home-cooked meals, family centric activities and, most importantly, support.
“Without the House, and without the community’s support, the Ronald McDonald House Charities would be unable to keep families close,” says Chief Development Officer Anne Rounds. “Families are stronger when they are together, and that is fundamentally understood here.”
RMHC of Southern Arizona serves families from all walks of life. Anyone with a child under the age of 21 who is being treated at an area hospital, and lives more than 30 miles away, can stay with a referral from a hospital social worker. There is no limit to the length of time a family is welcome, and many families come back multiple times as treatment for their child continues. Across the country, families receiving treatment at 76 percent of the top children’s hospitals have access to RMHC programs. This includes the Ronald McDonald Family Room at The University of Arizona Medical Center — Diamond Children’s, which has been in existence for more than 10 years, providing a respite area for all parents with children being treated at the hospital. It is through the Family Room that RMHC is able to touch the lives of those living in Tucson.
According to a recent global impact study, a critically ill child can have a psychologically and financially devastating long-term impact on patients, parents, siblings and entire families. It is because the family is the child’s primary source of strength and support that RMHC is so important to the well being of everyone. In addition to surmounting medical out-of-pocket costs, non-medical costs such as travel, lodging and food can quickly become exorbitant. RMHC also provides an outlet for parents to be able to reach out to others going through similar circumstances — something that is invaluable during stressful circumstances.
“The Ronald McDonald House gives families in devastating circumstances the chance to think about the future and the opportunity to look forward to it coming true as their child heals,” says Rounds.
“Support from the community through volunteering, donations and participation in events is how we are able to help more than 600 families each year,” explains Rounds. “In addition, in 2013 we are launching an annual giving society that will support our vision of long-term sustainability.”
The Ronald McDonald House has been the “charity of choice” for McDonald’s since the first House was founded in Philadelphia in 1974. In addition to providing a license agreement that allows each House to use the trademarks, the local McDonald’s Owner/Operators contribute approximately 10 percent of the annual operating budget, as no one company can solely fund the RMHC of Southern Arizona.
In addition to financial support from the community, the House relies heavily on volunteers and on three major fundraising events each year: the Charity Golf Classic, Grape Expectations Wine Event, and a unique ladies-only event — Chalk Talk, Basketball 101.
The Grape Expectations Wine Event, which will be held Sept. 21 at St. Philip’s Plaza, will treat guests to delicious food from local eateries, entertainment and more than 100 types of wine. In addition to a new location, the event this year will feature a champagne tasting, new exciting entertainment and unique auction items.
Volunteer opportunities always exist at the House, Family Room and at events. For more information about RMHC and about volunteer opportunities visit www.rmhctucson.org. — Georgeanne Barrett
Ronald McDonald House Charities’ Grape Expectations
St. Philip’s Plaza
Tickets: $150, VIP; $100, general
For more information visit www.rmhctucson.org