December 19, 2016 8:00 am
Updated: December 19, 2016 8:01 am

A family company helps families in need through Ronald McDonald House

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When a family is having problems, it’s only natural for other families to want to help. It’s that instinct that motivated Alpine Credits to reach out to Ronald McDonald House BC to help the families of the sick children staying there.

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“A few people that work here have friends or family members that have stayed at Ronald McDonald house at one time or another so they know the great work that Ronald McDonald House does,” said Kerilee Raven, the Vice President of Communications and Community Relations at Alpine Credits. “Since we’re a family company, we wanted to support a charity that also helps families.”

Alpine Credits is a family-operated company started in 1969 that offers home-equity loans from their office in Surrey.

“We were looking for a charitable organization to make a significant contribution to and we chose Ronald McDonald House,” said Raven. “On top of the large financial gift we’re going to be giving them each year, we also planned a special surprise because we wanted to brighten up the children’s’ days during this really hard time they are going through.”

That surprise turned out to be a scavenger hunt in late November for about 55 kids in Ronald McDonald House BC. It turned into a real party with a cookie-decorating station, a LEGO-building station, a balloon-popping station and personalized gifts for all the children including robotic dogs and animated stuffed animals for the young ones and drone helicopters, scooters, Beats by Dr. Dre headphones and iTunes gift cards for the older ones.

“It was definitely an emotional day. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house,” said Raven.

“Even the videographers who were capturing it on video were crying. Everybody was crying the whole day, but, luckily, they were happy tears because the kids had so much fun and it was so nice to see them escape from what they’re going through for a couple of hours to have fun and be kids.”

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Ronald McDonald House BC is a place for families of sick children to stay when they have to travel to Vancouver from remote parts of the province for medical treatment. It started in BC in 1983 initially as a 13-family house, but two years ago expanded to become the fifth largest of the 358 Ronald McDonald Houses worldwide, serving 70 families at a time. Some families may stay for just a day or two, while others may stay for months.

“When families have nowhere to stay, they can stay at Ronald McDonald House as long as they need to and go back and forth for treatment,” said Ronald McDonald House BC CEO Richard Pass. ”We try to keep the whole family together because studies are showing that families that are together while one of the children are sick helps the healing process for that child and the treatment process as well.”

“When we met with Ronald McDonald House, we found out that on top of the emotional toil that the families are going through, many are undergoing financial stress because they have lost income from attending appointments, they have to pay for expenses like having to come over on the ferry because they live on Vancouver Island and their child’s medical treatment is here on the mainland or they have to pay to fly here, especially if they are in the Yukon,” said Raven.

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“We know that the parents are under a lot of financial duress, so we gave each of the parents $1,000,” she said.

“The families were completely overwhelmed by the generosity,” said Diana Li, ‎Director of Corporate Partnerships at Ronald McDonald House BC. “When they saw the letter announcing what they got, so many of them had to read it multiple times because they couldn’t fathom the kindness of strangers and how somebody could be able to reach out and give support to them.”

“With the holidays getting close, so many families quietly in their hearts weren’t sure how they were going to handle Christmas,” she said. “Having a child who’s been sick for so long can be a huge financial burden so they didn’t know how they were going to do it. So I heard all kinds of people saying ‘Alpine Credits is making Christmas possible for us.’”

“We didn’t really expect such a strong reaction from the parents, but we were really touched by their reactions,” said Raven. “They were so grateful and they told us how they were going to spend the money, they told us some really beautiful stories. The parents are so selfless. They had a hard time accepting the gift. Some of them were saying they were going to use the money to buy gifts for other people because that’s just how selfless they are.”

Raven said that many employees at Alpine Credits want to help out year-round and will volunteer at Ronald McDonald House BC on a regular basis while some are donating their own money via payroll deductions.

“We hope that this is going to be a really long-term, ongoing partnership with them and we’ll be in the house all the time, volunteering and cooking meals for the families and helping out when we can,” said Raven.

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