I'm a Tennessee-based freelance writer with a passion for true crime, a thirst for knowledge, and an obsession with lists.
In 2004, I experienced what no expectant mother ever hopes to go through. I went into labor at 30 weeks gestation and doctors were unable to stop it. I gave birth to a three-pound baby boy, two months before his expected due date.
Whisked away by ambulance from our small town, ill-equipped hospital to a metropolitan hospital over one hundred miles from home. The distance was of little thought until things had calmed following our son's admission to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and we were advised our son could possibly be in the NICU until his due date or longer while I would be discharged in two days.
The idea of leaving my son behind in this city which was not only more than a hundred miles away from home but in a different time zone too was overwhelming and heartbreaking. Yet we weren't financially able to support my staying in a nearby hotel for an extended stay even with my husband returning to work rather quickly.
Enter Ronald McDonald House. With the aid of the hospital's social services worker, my husband and I were given a well-furnished room and provided with all toiletries we needed. Additionally, the house host showed us to a kitchen fully stocked with snacks, drinks, and even leftovers from the three-times-per-day hot meals served to the residence's families by local civics groups and churches. Transportation to and from the hospital was available to us any time day or night.
Over the course of three weeks, house staff came to know us, our other children, our pattern of visits to the hospital (which often aided in having transportation on hand before we could even ask!), assisted frequently in obtaining needed things, and overall offered encouragement and support during a very stressful time.
When we checked out of Ronald McDonald House, our total bill was zero. For three weeks, we were supplied with three hot meals per day, snacks at any time day or night, a nice room with cable and free WiFi access, transportation, and more and instead of worrying about the financial hardship of staying close to our son, we were able to (and encouraged) focus on his health and getting him home.
In the scope of medical autocracies that happen to children, in today's world being born two months premature seems trivial but knowing how well they served and supported my husband and I during our stay and the comfort and peace of mind it provided to us, I can't imagine the lifesavers they are to parents dealing with the worst of childhood afflictions.
Ronald McDonald House Charities is at the top of my list for charitable donations, monetarily and otherwise, throughout the year and why they should be at the top of your list too.
1. Established in 1974 by McDonald's Founder
The first Ronald McDonald House (RMH) opened in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1974 by McDonald's founder Ray Kroc. Kroc was well known for his deep love for children. He was able to see several more Ronald McDonald Houses opened in the U.S., Canada, and Australia prior to his death in 1984 at the age of 81. Unfortunately, his death would come less than a year before his beloved charity expanded operations to Europe.
2. Over 8,000 Families in 63 Countries Served Daily
RMHs are now located in 63 countries and regions around the world—including a 31-bedroom house opened on Vatican beach property in 2008 for families whose children are receiving care at Bambini Gesu's Children's Hospital. Each house offers extended stay lodging, three home-cooked meals each day (including weekends), free use laundry room stocked with detergents and such, and other essential items and services - at no cost to the families. Said services and items are made possible by the generous donations of individual and private benefactors. Home-cooked meals are provided by the generosity of local church and civics groups. Essential items such as soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash, shampoo, conditioner. combs, brushes, and much more, including some (new in package) basic clothing articles, are donated by local businesses, civics groups, and individuals.
3. $50 Million in Change Aids In Saving Resident Families $649 Million
In 2013, McDonald's reported more than $50 million in donations from their counter-top change donation boxes. Every cent of these donations were distributed to Ronald McDonald Houses worldwide.
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A similar but less popular program that earns RMHs an average of $4 million per year is the Pop Tab Collection program. Partnering with Alpha Delta Pi Sorority in 1987, RMH Charities began to promote the program through schools and civic groups with local Ronald McDonald Houses. There are also Pop Tab Collection Box drops in some nearby communities.
4. Spreading the Love Outside the Homes
Due to limited resources, RMH eligibility is dependent partly on an applicant's distance from hospital to home. The distance requirements are determined by each chapter's board. Unfortunately, this left many residents who spent countless at the hospital, eating cafeteria food. and trying to catch a quick nap in hospital chairs. This changed in 1992, when RMH Charities began acquiring space inside hospitals. The large suites are known as RMH Rooms. They feature home-cooked meals, snacks, drinks, comfortable couches and cots, cable television, charging stations, and bathrooms with vanities and showers.
2002 brought about a new service from Ronald McDonald House Charities: Mobile Care Clinics. These mobile clinics which visit schools and other like places, provide low or no-cost medical and dental services to children in communities where such services are most needed. While the program began in Massachusetts, today it is available around the world.
5. Recognized As a Best Charity
In 2001 and 2002, RMH Charities was recognized by Worth's magazine as one of "America's 100 Best Charities."
Many charity watchdog groups such as Charity Navigator reveal as recent as 2015, RMH Charities offer one hundred percent disclosure of their income and expenditures. Some points of interest include, only 2.4% of revenue is spent on administrative costs (staffed mostly by volunteers) and 87% is spent on program services and products.
1, 3: McDonald's New York TriState, 14 July 2014, 8 Facts You Should Know About Ronald McDonald House Charities, 20 May 2014
2: Prezi, 20 May 2014, Facts About Ronald McDonald Houses
4: Wikipedia, Ronald McDonald House Charities
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2016 Kim Bryan