Expansion underway for Ronald McDonald House

Expansion underway for Ronald McDonald House
David Marovich, Ronald McDonald, Curt Cunkle (2015 Board President), Mary Virginia Terry, Diane Boyle (Executive Director), Ryan Schwartz (Expansion Campaign Chair)

David Marovich, Ronald McDonald, Curt Cunkle (2015 Board President), Mary Virginia Terry, Diane Boyle (Executive Director), Ryan Schwartz (Expansion Campaign Chair)

Families with critically ill children traveling to Jacksonville face a serious financial burden when the child must be hospitalized days or weeks for treatment.

If they aren’t fortunate enough to have family or friends in town to stay with, their only options are Ronald McDonald House of Jacksonville or paying for a motel room. Unfortunately, because of overwhelming demand, Ronald McDonald House in San Marco has been regularly exceeding capacity on a daily basis.

But more rooms are coming soon at Ronald McDonald House.

Officials with the local non-profit, which has assisted more than 32,000 families since 1988, announced in January the “House that Love Built” is starting a $13 million expansion plan that will take its current facility from 30 to 54 rooms.

Fundraising that began last year already has raised $10.4 million in private donations, and now the facility is reaching out to the public for the remaining amount.

Children from the Ronald McDonald House pose with Ronald McDonald and Reed, RMHC Jacksonville Facility Dog

Children from the Ronald McDonald House pose with Ronald McDonald and Reed, RMHC Jacksonville Facility Dog

“We’re hoping the public can help us get over the finish line,” said Diane Boyle, Ronald McDonald House of Jacksonville executive director.

With Jacksonville’s “medical tourism” on the rise to places like nearby Wolfson Children’s Hospital, the expansion of the facility at 824 Children’s Way can’t come soon enough. In 2014 alone, the facility provided housing to more than 1,100 out-of-town families.

“We are responding to a need that is the direct result of growth in pediatric healthcare,” Boyle said.
In addition to the increased number of rooms, the San Marco facility that opened in 2001 will also add amenities such as:
• A rooftop healing garden
• 
A new volunteer kitchen, with existing kitchen remodeled for family use
• 
An iconic stair tower, guest balconies and covered parking
• 
Refurbishment of the dining room, play room, teen activity room, laundry areas, food storage areas, and administrative area

“The Jacksonville community has demonstrated immense support and praise in the expansion of the House, and we could not be more thrilled and humbled by the heart and sincere love our donors and volunteers have illustrated towards our families and our mission,” Boyle said.

Jacksonville’s Ronald McDonald House first opened as a 10-bedroom house on Jefferson Street and the average family stay was less than a week. Family stays now range an average of 12 days and up to six weeks at the facility, which provides free meals, a laundry room on each floor, playground equipment for their children and a van service to each of the five nearby medical facilities.

Arnold Corr, 98, is a long-time volunteer at Ronald McDonald House. "Anything they need, I do here," said Corr.  "We're so happy that they are finally adding the rooms they need. It will give me a little more to do here."

Arnold Corr, 98, is a long-time volunteer at Ronald McDonald House. “Anything they need, I do here,” said Corr. “We’re so happy that they are finally adding the rooms they need. It will give me a little more to do here.”

Families staying at the House are referred there by medical providers. The families are asked to make a $10 per day donation, however, no one is turned away, Boyle said.

More than 2,000 people volunteer 22,000 hours each year at the House. “Volunteers are so important to us,” said Boyle, noting that dozens of churches and non-profit organizations are regular contributors. “We couldn’t complete our mission here without the volunteers.”

But Boyle stressed more important than the amenities is the “community of care” that exists at the Home and has proven most beneficial to families suddenly face emotionally draining circumstances involving their children.

“The Ronald McDonald House is more than a home-away-from-home, it is truly a place of respite and community where families can be together and heal together,” said Curt Cunkle, chairman of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Jacksonville’s board of directors and EverBank’s president of North Florida banking.

“Studies show many positive outcomes from a family-centered approach to children’s healthcare, when families can be together during this very difficult time. These benefits include shorter recovery times, positive attitudes, and decreased anxiety levels in both the parents and the child. Furthermore, we are a home to many, many families who, because of limited means, would have nowhere else to go,” Cunkle said.

There are currently 177 Ronald McDonald Houses operating in the United States and a total of 330 globally that serve families with critically injured and chronically and seriously ill children.
For information, visit www.rmhcjacksonville.org  or call (904) 807-HOME.

By Greg Walsh
Resident Community News

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