An organization that helps keep families close to each other when they need it the most is on a mission to build a bigger home away from home for out-of-town families with sick children.
Ronald McDonald House Charities Atlantic has announced the public phase of its More Room for Love campaign. Funds raised through the campaign will help the organization build a new house to serve families across Atlantic Canada whose children need to visit the IWK Health Centre in Halifax.
The new house will be located directly across from the emergency entrance to the hospital and allow double the number of families to stay in the facilities compared to the current site – a townhome over 100 years old on Tower Road in the city’s South End.
“We’re here to support families when they need to travel to access the medical care their child needs and those are families from all throughout the Maritimes,” CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities Atlantic Lori Barker says. “So when we look at the number of families we serve in a given year, it’s about 600 but the reality is we’re turning away… literally hundreds of families.”
Barker estimates about 3,000 Maritime families travel beyond 100 kilometres annually to take their children to the IWK. According to Ronald McDonald House Charities, 42 per cent of families that visit the IWK come from New Brunswick, 36 per cent from Nova Scotia and 13 per cent from Prince Edward Island. The new house will be able to accommodate 1,200 families each year, doubling their current capacity.
“Following years of wait-lists and certainly working closely with the IWK Health Centre, our board made the decision that it was time to double our capacity and certainly improve the overall experience for the families who are staying with us,” Barker says.
So far, the More Room for Love fundraiser has raised $21 million with both the Nova Scotia and federal government contributing funds. Barker hopes the additional $3 million needed will come from generous Atlantic Canadians over the duration of this three-month campaign.
“As we reach out to our Maritime friends and family, we certainly invite you to make a donation… Every bit counts in helping us get one step closer to that goal,” says Barker.
The new house will provide 40,000 square feet of space for the 1,200 families that will visit it annually. There will also be 36 bedrooms with private bathrooms.
“You might be surprised to learn that in our current house, families are actually sharing washrooms,” she says. “In this new space… they’ll all have their own private washrooms and that privacy is really important for the families who are on these medical journeys and are dealing with great stresses.”
There will also be gathering spaces where families can socialize and support one another, including a kitchen pavilion for visitors to use and for volunteer groups to host their Home for Dinner program that provides a home-cooked meal for those staying in the house.
It sounds exactly like what Ronald McDonald House Charities founder George Cohon had in mind when he created the organization over 45 years ago. When asked if Ronald McDonald Children’s Charities was his biggest accomplishment, Cohon told Global News, “I would say it’s helping one family at a time. It’s meeting a family that comes in and what do they need when their child is sick? They need to be together.”
Construction of the new Ronald McDonald House will begin in the fall and is expected to take 18 to 24 months to complete. To learn more about the More Room for Love campaign, visit the Ronald McDonald House Charities Atlantic website.