Parents like what they see

Lacombe parents who relied on Calgary’s Ronald McDonald House for 10 months know exactly what a McDonald house in Red Deer will mean to families.

Ashlee and Eldon Holmes of Lacombe

Lacombe parents who relied on Calgary’s Ronald McDonald House for 10 months know exactly what a McDonald house in Red Deer will mean to families.

Ashlee and Eldon Holmes, whose two-and-a-half-old daughter, Zoey, died March 30, said the architectural plans on display at an information meeting on Tuesday at the Capri Hotel for the Red Deer house were “awesome.”

“Most of our time was spent in the dining room,” said Ashlee, pointing to the dining room that will be on the main floor, next to the communal kitchen in the 10-suite Red Deer house.

“That’s where we’d all congregate,” Eldon said.

Ashlee said being able to cook your own meals was helpful. But with several cultures living in the Calgary house, there was always different types of food being shared.

“That was kind of a fun part. The potlucks. Everyone making their favorite dishes. That was all good,” Eldon said.

Zoey had a rare stem cell cancer, and the Holmes used the Calgary house from May 27, 2008, to March 30, 2009, while she received nine rounds of chemotherapy, two stem cell transplants and four surgeries, including one major surgery.

Ashlee couldn’t imagine having spent all that time in a hotel.

“You’d get very lonely and very depressed in a hotel for 10 months by yourself.”

She said the size of the suites in the Red Deer house will come in handy for families, as they did in Calgary.

“If you had siblings or parents come in from out of town they didn’t have to get a hotel room. They could stay there.”

Tuesday’s information session was held to gather input from nearby landowners to get an exception to the city’s land-use bylaw so the Ronald McDonald House could be built in a medium-residential zoning area.

Conditional offers have been made to buy three lots south of the Red Deer hospital at 3902, 3906 and 3908 on 50A Avenue to build the house as a place for families to stay while their children are treated.

The $10-million project is expected to go to city council in early June. Once it gets first reading, a public hearing will be held.

An estimated 400 families annually are expected to stay at the Red Deer house.

Eldon said plans for the Red Deer house look similar to the Calgary house, which runs quite well.

The plans call for underground parking, a craft room, laundry facilities, a playground, and a TV/multipurpose room, among other amenities.

“And of course you can’t have Ronald McDonald without the magic room,” Eldon said.

“It’s just an amazing room. If children have had surgery or have been in the hospital, or on their birthday they go in and pick a toy,” Ashlee said with a smile.

“Or whenever there’d been a traumatic situation, the kids got to go in there,” Eldon said.

“Like if a child passed away,” Ashlee added.

Red Deer’s house will be used by families with critically ill babies and high-risk pregnancies.

Ashlee and Eldon plan on volunteering at the Red Deer house.

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