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Ronald McDonald House: A lifeline for families

June 19, 2019 08:58 AM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — When your child is sick, the whole family suffers emotionally and financially. And it's especially difficult when your child's hospital is miles away from home. News10NBC's Deanna Dewberry shows us why the Ronald McDonald House is a lifeline for hundreds of families.

The Ronald McDonald House provides a home away from home for families while their children are being treated in Rochester. That's big. But they also offer other services beyond a good meal and a warm bed — services all provided at no cost.

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It's much more than that lovely home on Westmoreland Drive. It's also a house within the hospital providing families with sick children the comforts of home in the very building where their children are getting life-saving treatment. 

"It's kind of reassuring to know that if you get that call in the middle of the night you can just ride that elevator down a couple of floors, but like you still get your own room space, your own bathroom, your own shower," parent Jackie Jennings said.

Jennings lives three hours away so she has had to stay at the Ronald McDonald House for the better part of a year while her little one receives care. It's at this seven-room housing unit near the ICU that she can get a meal, a cup of coffee and something she values even more.

"I would say the biggest help for me though has been the other parents I have met...the other moms," Jennings said.

That invaluable support is also shared in the family room. It's one of the newest editions to the Ronald McDonald support resources.

"There's a large group of families at the hospital who are just sleeping bedside or they commuting from home, but they spend all day and sometimes all night in the hospital," Jack Keck, a Ronald McDonald House of Charities program manager. "So this is a great resource for them."

Those moms and dads can come to rest, take a quick shower, grab a snack, but there's one convenience that always makes them smile.

"They get very excited when they see washing machines because they had no idea how they were going to do their laundry while they were here," Keck said.

Ronald McDonald House Charities has another room that is the first of its kind in the United States — the mental health and wellness family lounge. It's for families whose children are receiving psychiatric care at Strong.  

"A big part of it is bonding with other families," Keck said. "They get to meet friends that they keep for a lifetime."

And that is one of the greatest gifts given the house that love built — friendships that help carry families through the toughest of times.

Three new programs started last year: the mental health lounge, a family lounge at Rochester General Hospital and a comfort cart that provides families with healthy snack bags. 

In all, the Ronald McDonald House saved families more than $1 million just last year.

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Rochester relies completely on donations. That's where you come in. This Friday is BEE a Hero Day. We're asking you to donate by phone or online. Learn how you can help by visiting whec.com/bee-a-hero-day.

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