To those passing by the Ronald McDonald House, at the corner of Cootes Drive and Main Street West, the building looks complete. Though construction is not yet finalized, it is drawing closer to its much-anticipated completion date of March 31.
When the expansion is finished, the facility will have the capacity to house up to 40 out-of-town families whose children who are patients at the McMaster Children’s Hospital. In addition, the facility will offer family-centered support programs, as it is located just steps away from the hospital.
The Ronald McDonald House has received $8.6 million in federal and provincial infrastructure grants, and has relied on community fundraising for an additional $5 million to complete the project.
McMaster contributed by donating a charitable portion of $9,500 from 2011 Charity Ball for the initiative.
“Our mission is to provide support and accommodations for families who are out of town, with children who are very sick being treated at the McMaster Children’s Hospital,” said Chantell Tunney, the executive director of the Ronald McDonald House.
The House, which previously had 15 rooms, is open to families of inpatients, including those in neonatal, oncology or pediatric critical care. They also serve outpatients and their families, such as children receiving cancer treatments and those participating in day clinics.
“We help families that are staying at Mac, and McMaster helps families that are staying with us,” said Tunney. “Some of this will be new territory for us, but we really view our relationship with Mac to be symbiotic because we’re all taking care of the same families. It is to really make sure that the entire circle of care is looked at.”
More than doubling in size to 56,000 square feet, the House primarily aims to meet family needs. Included in the new renovations are a larger kitchen, a quiet café-like dining area, dedicated breastfeeding rooms with breast pump sterilizers and private washrooms in every room.
In addition to the necessities, the renovated House will have more common rooms, quiet lounges, a Games Room pool table and gaming consoles, an underwater-themed playroom and an inbuilt movie theater, which includes a generous donation from La-Z-Boy Furniture for theater seating.
There are 13 Ronald McDonald Houses in Canada, and Hamilton’s has been around since 1933.
“Our location is one of the biggest benefits that we have. When you consider that families are leaving their children at the hospital to come and sleep here, the closer you can be, the better.
Families love the fact that when they’re in one of our upstairs rooms that are facing the Cootes side, they can actually see the hospital, and there is a comfort level knowing that the staff is right there.”
McMaster students have also been a big part of the House’s success. “Our volunteerism is fantastic,” said Tunney. “We have so many student volunteers, and we are a very youthful House … we are lucky to be at the position we are in.”