For almost two months, Ashley and Tanner Chutskoff have called Ronald McDonald House Saskatchewan (RMHS) in Saskatoon home.
It’s a place where families from across the province can stay for as long as they need while their child is in hospital.
Pregnant with twin girls, at 26 weeks Ashley was transferred to Royal University Hospital (RUH) in Saskatoon.
“That was probably the most stressful thing – don’t know whether they are going to come today, tomorrow, a week, two weeks, a month,” Tanner said.
At just over 31 weeks, Ashley had an emergency C-section as both babies were breech.
“The girls ended up in the NICU, so we saw the Ronald McDonald House and decided to check it out,” Ashley explained.
The couple is from Kamsack, Sask. – almost four hours east of Saskatoon.
Ashley was discharged from hospital only two days after her C-section and their housing options in the city were limited.
“I just honestly don’t know what we would’ve done in the first week had we not been able to stay here,” Ashley said. “I couldn’t get into the vehicle and I couldn’t do stairs.”
The couple spends nearly eight hours per day at RUH visiting their newborns – something they said wouldn’t have been possible had they stayed anywhere else.
“It’s nice being able to walk over,” Tanner said. “That’s huge – we don’t have big gas expenses and stuff like that.”
The house has 34 private suites, shared spaces to relax, a huge community kitchen, playrooms and offers many different support programs – all for just $10 per night.
Perhaps most important, there are other people to talk to.
“Almost like a family,” Tanner said. “So many people in here that are just heartwarming if you need to vent with someone around.”
Every year, RMHS supports close to 2,500 people. Ronald McDonald House CEO Tammy Forrester said the volunteers and staff are key to making it feel like home.
“Supporting families and visiting with families when they want to be visited with, making cookies,” Forrester said.
“Our goal here is to keep families close and keep them together while they are going through things they probably never thought they would go through as a family.”
As for the Chutskoff’s, their twin girls, Nikita and Sawyer, are still in hospital but growing every day.
They said Ronald McDonald House will always be part of their first memories as a family – something they plan on commemorating.
May 8 is McHappy Day in support of RMHS. Last year, about $190,000 was raised in Saskatchewan.