Season of Giving: Ronald McDonald House

Having children makes us all remember the magic of this time of year. The sparkle in their eyes as you unpack the decorations. The inevitable laughter from watching their favorite holiday movie — for the hundredth time. The palpable warmth that comes from snuggling beside each other as you sip hot chocolate (even if you wore shorts just yesterday). The pure joy of watching your child open the gift he or she so desperately wanted.

For some families, however, the holiday season is not as joyous. Parents are dealing with job loss, illness and difficult circumstances. Some have lost their homes. Children’s tummies are rumbling. The simple joys of the holidays are suddenly not so simple.

That’s why we here at LiveMom started the Season of Giving, a time each year when we can recognize that there is more to this time of year than the perfect centerpiece, the over-the-top meal and the mountain of wrapping paper when the presents are opened. It’s a time when we demonstrate our commitment to building a stronger village. It’s a time to show our children that we can all make a difference in our community, and that giving is something we can do all year long. And, perhaps most importantly, that there can be joy in the giving as well as the receiving.


‘Tis the season…for sick kids. Colds, ear infections, runny noses and coughing are part of the “joys” of the season.

But what would happen if you found out one of your children was sick? Really sick?

That’s exactly what happened to Taryn Skees, an Austin mom we know who blogs at More Skees Please and whose son was in the NICU for 2 weeks. “The Ronald McDonald House is a place we didn’t even know existed until we needed it,” said Taryn. “After our son Aiden was born with rare medical complications, we were connected with our local Ronald McDonald Family Room where we were able to stay with our son at the hospital.”

Most of us know who Ronald McDonald is, but what is a Ronald McDonald House? Ronald McDonald House Charities support the health and well-being of children and families through Houses, Family Rooms and other programs. Houses offer families a place to eat, sleep and relax while children are being treated at area hospitals. Families either stay at no cost or are asked to make a donation up to $25 per day, depending on the house. A family is never turned away for their ability to pay. Stays can be as short as one night or as long as several months, and sometimes extend to a year or more, depending on the child’s illness and treatment. Family Rooms provide places within medical facilities where families can rest and regroup while staying very close to their ill child. Healing Hearts provides burial assistance funds and bereavement support groups to families who have lost children due to illness or injury.

The first Ronald McDonald House opened in Philadelphia in 1974 (which was, incidentally, the House where my nieces, my sister-in-law and my brother-in-law stayed while my niece was treated at the Children’s Hospital for a congenital heart defect) and there are now more than 318 Houses serving families in 31 countries and regions worldwide. Although McDonald’s is a corporate partner and local restaurants contribute to the charity’s operating costs, the majority of expenses are covered by donations from individuals and businesses.

The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Austin and Central Texas first opened its doors to families in 1985 and opened a much larger facility next door to the Dell Children’s Medical Center in 2007. In 2011, the organization served 1,307 families at the House, in the Family Rooms and through Healing Hearts, and this year, the nonprofit will serve over 1,500 families.

The Hernandez Valderrama Family with Carmella

Becky Hernandez is one of the parents who stayed at the Austin Ronald McDonald House while her daughter, Carmella, was in the NICU for three weeks following a premature birth and complications. Although Carmella is now a growing, happy toddler, Becky remembers, “I am moved to tears when I recall how welcomed I felt when we first checked in.  When we first walked into our room, there was a welcome bag on the coffee table and a homemade blanket! I couldn’t have asked for a better ‘home away from home’”.

WAYS TO HELP
If you’d like to help families like Taryn and Becky’s continue to access the services of the Ronald McDonald Charities, here are a few ways you can help:

Donate money
You can donate online. Here are a few ways your donation can be utilized:

  • A $30 donation will pay a family’s room fee for three nights.
  • A $50 donation will buy new cutlery for the kitchen where volunteers cook lunch and dinner for our families every day.
  • A $100 donation will pay for five families to stay two nights at the Ronald McDonald House.

Wish List
The local Chapter currently needs the following items:

  • Free and clear liquid laundry detergent for laundering baby clothes
  • Journals for the families
  • Pre-packaged individual snacks for families in the hospital or for a breakfast on-the-go
  • HEB and Wal-Mart gift cards
  • Movie Passes or Passes to area attractions for the families

Donate time
If you’d like to give the gift of time, you might consider:

  • Joining Taryn and others in Friends of the House, the local Chapter’s young professionals’ organization. The members volunteer, work on special events, donate, cook meals for the families and are an army of support for RMHC Austin.
  • Prepare lunch or dinner for families staying at the House. These are very popular volunteer opportunities, so they fill up fast.
  • Start your own fundraising page for RMHC Austin. Set a goal. Invite your friends and family to donate. Watch your donations grow, knowing you are helping keep families together during pediatric medical crisis.

Check back here tomorrow for more information on their upcoming event, the Lights of Love 5k!

A native Austinite and soccer-playing mom, Nicole uses her 6-year-old son as an excuse to rediscover her hometown through his eyes. In Thoreau’s words, her mission is to “suck out all the marrow of life”, or in her son’s words, to cultivate in him a love of “advenchers”.