A sold-out crowd came together at The Geraghty April 22 to commemorate 40 years of Ronald McDonald House Charities in the Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana areas.
“Chicago opened the second Ronald McDonald House in the world,” explains Holly Bukendahl of Western Springs, CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities in Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana. “It was our Lincoln Park location that really put in motion the organizational mode of how we get a community behind us in supporting our mission. Houses have sprung up all over the world since then and have learned from us.”
Chicago and Northwest Indiana have five Ronald McDonald Houses that provide a supportive “home away from home” for families while their child is being treated at a nearby hospital. Offering comfortable, private rooms where families can get a good night’s rest knowing their child is close by, the Ronald McDonald Houses give families the opportunity to connect with others going through similar experiences. During their stay, parents can exchange stories over a meal in the kitchen while siblings play with new friends they meet.
Volunteers arrive daily—taking care of typical household chores and preparing home-cooked meals. Laundry and computer facilities are available as well.
“When people ask us how they can help, I tell them that a Ronald McDonald House needs everything a personal home does,” Bukendahl says. “Groceries, furniture, linens—everything you need in your home, we need in ours.”
The five Ronald McDonald Houses provide keep families together while their child is in the hospital. Every night, 153 families are able to find comfort, compassion and community of at a Chicagoland Ronald McDonald House. Located near Advocate Children’s Hospital, Central DuPage Hospital, Loyola University Medical Center, University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital, and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, the Houses give families the opportunity to eat, sleep and find the emotional support they need—just blocks from where their child is being treated. While Ronald McDonald House asks for a $10 donation per night, no family is ever turned away if they can’t pay.
“Ronald McDonald House is a very relatable charity, a very relatable way to give back,” Bukendahl explains. “At some point, you might have a child who is fighting for their life, or know someone who does. It makes supporting this organization an easy thing to do because there is always some way to help in a meaningful way.”
The nature of childhood illnesses is unpredictable, making it something no family ever actually plans for. This fact alone makes the Ronald McDonald House mission of “caring for families of children with complex medical needs by providing comfort, compassion, and a sense of community” as important today as it was 40 years ago.
“As our pediatric partners continue to grow, so too will the need for Ronald McDonald House,” says Bukendahl. “You always hope for children who are healthy, but it’s reassuring to know that the resources are there if you ever have a child fighting for his or her life.”
Ronald McDonald House will be celebrating its 40th anniversary throughout the year—with their Annual Golf Classic on July 19 and their Sporting Clays Tournament on September 16-17.
“I encourage anyone who is looking for a way to give back to see if there is a Ronald McDonald House nearby—and jump in,” Bukendahl adds. “Pediatric illness doesn’t know any demographic, so the more we can have our communities supporting us, the greater impact we’ll have on families who need it most.”
To learn more about Ronald McDonald House, visit rmhccni.org.