Ronald McDonald House in Red Deer is making life easier for many parents who just need a quick nap, a shower or a meal while their children are in hospital.
A spokesperson for the charity said statistics are not yet available for 2019, but based on monthly updates, the number of day passes used last year will far exceed the 1,052 day passes in 2018.
In 2016, a room was set aside at the house for families who require a break, but don’t need to stay overnight.
The number of passes used has climbed each year. In 2017, a total of 916 passes were used.
Nicky Martel, whose newborn son Ben was in the neonatal intensive care unit for about a month in 2017, said the day pass program gave her a place to rest near Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre so she didn’t have to rush back and forth.
“My whole family was welcomed through those doors at any time. I can’t say enough about what the house did for me,” said Martel, of Red Deer.
She said at first, she didn’t want to use the house because she didn’t want people feeling sorry for her. But it turned out to be everything she needed.
“You become part of a family. It was unbelievable. There was always someone there to give you a hug to make you feel better, or just to talk if you wanted to. There was always food there, and good food.”
She said the house was the place where her three other children could regularly spend time with her, and 14 of her family members gathered to celebrate Easter.
She called the house her “home away from home” and she still visits staff and families.
“When I go in there, I shed a tear.”
Martel, who has spoken at Ronald McDonald House events about how the house helped her family, said the day pass program, the volunteers and the community support for the house are amazing.
“I will say that hands down, Red Deer has it figured out.”