We should be proud of Ronald McDonald House

Once again Central Alberta, you’ve set the bar high. You’ve dazzled, amazed, astonished, scintillated.

Once again Central Alberta, you’ve set the bar high. You’ve dazzled, amazed, astonished, scintillated.

I’m not talking hockey, football or curling. I’m talking about the fabulous new facility in Red Deer for sick kids and their families that showcased on the weekend during an open house — Ronald McDonald House Central Alberta.

It is a remarkable community accomplishment, involving big and small businesses or organizations, and many individuals.

I was one of the several thousand people who took in the facility’s open house on Saturday. The home away from home opens to families and sick children on Feb. 27.

Located a few steps from Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre, Ronald McDonald House Central Alberta is designed to offer low-cost accommodation to parents and sick children. The cost is $12 a night but no family will be turned away because they can’t afford to pay. The cost of motels and meals can quickly add up, especially if a parent isn’t working so he or she can be at their child’s side.

The facility is for parents of critically ill babies or sick children or women facing high-risk pregnancies. It will be used largely by rural families but can also be used by city residents or those from communities nearby who aren’t spending the night but who just want to stop in and make lunch in the large kitchen or take a break.

Perhaps one of the most important and special aspects of the house is something no one touring it can actually see. The open design of the 11-suite 27,000-square-foot building will allow different families to be together, to support each other through difficult times.

The open areas for dining and cooking, and a large library, will allow for that special sharing and bonding. The truth is, some of the families who use the facility will be there because their child is dying.

The idea of Ronald McDonald House is simple. Sick kids need their parents. When it opens in three weeks, people will be able to stay there for weeks, or even months if need be. It’s the 13th Ronald McDonald House in Canada.

Eighty per cent of the $12 million needed for Ronnie’s House had to be raised before construction could begin. It took about three years from the beginning of fundraising to the finished house. Included in the $12 million is $1.2 million to cover the first year of operation.

Ronald McDonald House will continue to require local fundraising, and while there’s been concern that supporting another major local charity will hurt those already in place, the facility has drawn in some new donors. In fact, one donor, a Rocky Mountain House resident, Mary Bea Quinn, donated $1 million on behalf of her late husband, Bernard. The family operates several businesses. On the other end of the scale, two young students at Poplar Ridge School, Jenaya Moore and Caitlyn Richardson, sold hotdogs and raised $18,004. And so the fundraising went.

I saw a host of volunteers guiding the public through the facility, and also mentioning how anyone who wanted to volunteer could do so. Volunteers will be screened and require police checks.

The building has suites that are bright, with plenty of storage and no TVs. The TV rooms are separate, allowing people to mix with others, to come to know they are not alone with their fears and worries.

The best room might just be the Magic Room. It’s designed in a friendly farm-critter theme. When children reach certain milestones in their treatment, they get to go to the Magic Room and select one of Mother Goose’s special eggs. Inside there’s a key that opens a room full of toys.

It is magic — just like the magic that helped bring Ronald McDonald House to Red Deer.

Great job everyone.

Mary-Ann Barr is the Advocate’s assistant city editor. She can be reached by phone at 403-314-4332, email at barr@bprda.wpengine.com and on Twitter @maryannbarr1

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