Tour host Sandy McDowell

Tour host Sandy McDowell

A place of comfort, support for Central Alberta families

Sean and Alana Brooks know better than most how much the new Ronald McDonald House will mean to those who find comfort there.

Sean and Alana Brooks know better than most how much the new Ronald McDonald House will mean to those who find comfort there.

The Red Deer couple lived in Edmonton’s Ronald McDonald House for 10 weeks when their twin son and daughter were born prematurely.

Alana said she’s very grateful for all that the house offered at a time when the couple anxiously waited for the day when their tiny newborns, born at 28 weeks, could leave intensive care. Now seven months old, the twins are doing well.

“It’s one less thing to worry about when you have so much going on,” said Alana, as she toured the $12-million home that opened its doors to the public for a sneak preview on Saturday.

“It was quite a big ordeal,” said Sean of their time in Edmonton.

“It took a lot of the stress out of it.”

Besides having a place to eat and sleep at a fraction of the cost of hotels and restaurants, the house allowed the couple to meet and share experiences with others who were in similar situations.

Many of the parents staying at the Edmonton house also had premature babies and the talking helped.

“We were able to stay in contact with a couple of other families,” he said.

Only a few finishing touches remain on the three-storey house backing onto Gaetz Avenue near the hospital. The 27,000-square-foot facility designed by local architect John Hull has 11 suites for families from outside the city who have critically ill babies, sick children or are facing high-risk pregnancies. The facility can also be used by city residents or from communities nearby who aren’t spending the night but who just want to stop in and make lunch, have a shower or take a break

The first families are expected to arrive in weeks and it is expected 400 families a year will use the affordable accommodations available. The house is available free of charge or for a small donation depending on each family’s circumstances.

“It’s very beautiful,” said Georgina O’Coin, who just finished touring the facility. “There’s lots of light.

“There’s lots of places for kids.”

O’Coin said it will be a good addition to the community. “It’ll improve a lot of people’s lives.”

Bea Mearns was volunteering on Saturday and will be on the front desk when the facility opens.

“I think it’s really awesome,” she said. “I just think it’s a wonderful way to give back to the community and to families that really need a place of comfort.”

Mayor Morris Flewwelling also came away impressed with the level of detail and finishing in the building, which offers scenic views of Rotary Park.

“I’m amazed at the interior volume of the place,” said Flewwelling.

He hopes that communities outside Red Deer, whose residents will benefit from the house, will embrace it and help provide the funding needed to cover the annual $1.2 million operating cost.

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