Over $20,000 raised for Ronald McDonald House Charities during BEE A HERO DAY

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  • CLICK HERE to donate online
  • CALL (585) 559-HERO from 5 a.m. – 7 p.m. on Friday, October 21, 2022
  • TEXT the letters RMHCR to 844-211-5414

You can also help by purchasing an item on the Amazon Wish List

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – When Rabiya Mehr began experiencing complications during her pregnancy, she and her husband Mohsin Malik never imagined they would welcome their daughter more than two months early.

Rabiya was admitted to Strong Hospital in late September and she was told she would need to stay there for the remainder of her pregnancy.

”Basically it became a very stressful time because my family was an hour away, and I was here in the hospital. I couldn’t see the kids because of Covid rules. My husband was playing Mom and Dad,” said Rabiya.

Malik and their two boys considered getting an AirBnB to be closer to the hospital, but because they didn’t know how long they’d have to stay, it didn’t make sense financially.

”Of course for me, the main thing was like, if I go into an emergency… you know, it was gonna be a C-section so my thing was like, if I have to go in and my husband’s an hour away, there’s no way he’s gonna be able to be here,” said Rabiya.

A social worker at the hospital learned of their concerns about the distance, and within 20 minutes they were connected to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Rochester’s Westmoreland House, about a three-minute drive from the hospital.

“It was such a stress relief for me, knowing that they were just right around the corner,” said Rabiya.

The house saved them in more ways than one.

”Financially and mentally. We relaxed a lot,” added Malik. “Normally we donate to a lot of nonprofit fundraising and nonprofit organizations … this is where we feel it.”

If you’re familiar with the Ronald McDonald house, then you might know about the incredible work that staff and volunteers do there every day. They provide a comfortable place for families to stay while their child is receiving critical care at one of the two major hospital systems in our area.

”We are able to be here to relieve some burdens for families, but it’s so much more than that,” says Senior Vice President of Operations, Danielle Howard. “It’s also about the people that we have here surrounding these families. It’s the support when they come back after a long day at the hospital that says… how are you doing and have you eaten yet today and let me warm up a meal for you.”

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When you walk into the Westmoreland House, you immediately feel the warm welcome. A fireplace surrounded by cozy seating; a new state-of-the-art kitchen where volunteers prepare meals; and 24 rooms with all of the amenities of home. But on top of supplying a warm bed and a hot meal, it’s the welcoming community that can help families through some of their darkest times.

”The stress of having a child that’s ill or injured, it’s insurmountable,” says Joanne Ryan, President and CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Rochester. “The only place you want to be is at that bedside. We help to make that happen by providing a close proximity, and also just taking care of the logistical barriers. We clear everything so that every minute that the family has, is at the bedside.”

To truly understand the impact this organization has on our community, first you have to understand how many lives it touches.

”In 2021 we helped over 600 families through our House Within the Hospital program and our Westmoreland program,” says Danielle Howard. “Now those are just our overnight facilities where a family comes, they stay with us free of charge they have a room to stay to be close to their child.”

Bringing families even closer to their children are four family rooms – also located within area hospitals – where thousands of families have gone to recharge in the past year.

”24/7, 265 days a year. This becomes a home away from home for many families,” says Joanne Ryan. “Some families stay as short a stay as one or two days, some have been with us six months, depending on their child’s diagnosis.”

The house supports children with a wide range of diagnoses. A common misconception is that it only serves families of oncology patients. In reality, families of cardiac patients and premature babies (like Rabiya and Malik’s baby girl) are who they see most often.

”You don’t know what a huge blessing it is until something like this happens to you,” says Rabiya. “I mean we never really knew this place existed until we needed it.”

It was the middle of the night (and 9 weeks early) when the time came for the baby girl’s arrival. Malik was asleep and Rabiya was having trouble getting a hold of him on his cell phone, so she called the front desk at the Ronald McDonald house instead. A staff member named Deb answer the phone and sprang into action. She immediately ran to the room where Malik and their two boys were staying and knocked on the door.

”And she said ‘yeah, your wife is in the delivery room and she’s trying to call you!’” said Malik. “And I call my wife right away and I said ‘is everything okay?’, she said ‘yeah they bring me to the emergency, because of the emergency they bring me to the delivery room, try to make it quickly!’”

Miraculously, Malik made it in time for their daughter’s birth, all because of the quick thinking from beloved RMHCR staffer Deb.

”It was really because of her that he was able to make it to the delivery,” said Rabiya. ”Now we realize how important it is to kind of give back to the community and give back to places like this because if we didn’t have this we really don’t know what we would have done.”

Beautiful baby Safiya is described by hospital staff as “feisty,” and they say she is doing well. Her Mom and Dad say she is a fighter from the start, and she has two very excited and protective older brothers waiting for her at home.

”Both sons, they’re always ….’we’re not gonna let anyone touch our baby, we’re gonna hold her,’ they’re already very protective of her,” says Malik. ”I’m telling you, this is such a great blessing for us to be here, and me and Rabiya, we always talk about them and this is like the best thing that has happened to us.”