Thank you Ronald McDonald House Charities of South Florida
By Diana Bello Aristizábal
We live in a complicated world in which we hear several stories every day from people whose lives take a radical turn due to an accident, a disease or an unfortunate event for which they are not prepared. However, just at those moments, angels from everywhere often appear incarnated in volunteers that, without any personal interest, are willing to lend their hands, ideas or resources to help.
Among the stories we hear regularly, perhaps the ones that need the most of these angels, often anonymous, are those in which children are involved when they are diagnosed with a serious illness or suffer an accident.
This is when the non-profit organizations and their allied volunteers play an essential role by providing invaluable support to pediatric families through different programs aimed to bring some peace in the midst of adversity.
For this reason, in this Thanksgiving issue, Doral Family Journal wants to thank them for their tireless work that would not be possible without the donations, in time or money, from different corporations and individuals. To all, we extend a big ‘thank you’ for changing the lives of millions of families around the world.
Although we know that many organizations give support to families with minors, this time we want to especially thank Ronald McDonald House Charities of South Florida on the occasion of its 36th anniversary to be celebrated on November 16.
The foundations of a great dream
In August of 1982, the South Florida house was inaugurated on land donated by the Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. It is one of the 13 homes in Florida, and one of the more than 364 existed in the 64 countries and regions where Ronald McDonald House is present.
The first was built 46 years ago after American football player Fred Hill of the Philadelphia Eagles knew his two-year-old daughter was suffering from leukemia. He lived in the suburbs of Philadelphia and had to travel continuously to the city to take her to the doctor.
Fred realized how difficult it was for some parents, like him, to live in one place and frequently move to another one many miles away to be with their children, which is why he expressed his concern to Dr. Audrey Evans, an oncologist pediatrician who worked at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Evans asked McDonald’s for help in the construction of a house close to the hospital and where parents could rest while their children received treatment. As a result, the fast-food corporation delivered the first house to Dr. Evans, through a fundraising event that had the active participation of donors and volunteers committed to the cause.
After this, a project officially began, first as a charitable initiative and then consolidated in a non-profit organization duly established. In addition to the houses, the organization has two other programs that are the family rooms, located within the hospitals, and the care mobiles that provides health services where families require it.
According to statistics from the latest annual report for 2017, Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) has offered more than 2.45 million overnight stays, which saved families over $ 880 million in lodging and meals.
Also, in recent years it has continued to expand because only during 2017 were built 9 new houses, added 259 bedrooms, 20 family rooms of the more than 237 around the world and 3 care mobiles of the more than 50 already existed.
On the other hand, its network of volunteers has also grown. For 2017 it had 508,788 volunteers who support the mission in clerical or office support, house maintenance, house decorations on special holidays and fundraising activities, among others.
Only in the South Florida chapter, there are 3,000 volunteers a year. “I feel proud of the organization, teamwork, and support I receive from the community, whether in time or money, we value each person and consider their work important,” says Soraya Rivera-Moya, executive director of the Ronald McDonald House of Miami.
The house of Miami, more than a place to sleep
Divided into 3 floors with capacity for 31 rooms and 65 guests, it was built with the purpose of helping all non-local families that have children under the age of 21 receiving treatment at Jackson Memorial Hospital or at any other nearby hospital such as Nicklaus or Baptist.
Each family guest can use the communal kitchens freely, enjoy one of the cooked meals offered daily, sponsored by different corporations such as the Mandarin Hotel, or take something light like a sandwich or a coffee from the ‘grab and go’ station.
“We want to make life easier for families because they are on medical appointments or accompanying their children at the hospital all day and arrive at night tired and unwilling to do anything” explains Soraya Rivera-Moya.
It is precisely at times like these, which are part of the everyday life of families that donations made by different people and corporations acquire a special meaning by contributing with the peace of mind and tranquility of those who are going through a difficult time.
“Here we do not have anyone to cook, but we receive prepared meals and food such as milk that we are supplied with every 2 weeks. In addition, some corporations collect items for us, and we are constantly getting donations from our ‘wish list’”, says Soraya.
But the volunteers’ help is not limited to donations of food or basic necessities since they periodically organize different activities such as birthday parties, hairdressing sessions or decorating competitions.
Also, some groups provide emotional and spiritual support through meditation or prayer, while others take care of the guests’ needs that arise on a day-to-day basis or help with house maintenance tasks such as fixing the yard or painting the walls.
“We try to have a homelike atmosphere as normal as possible and we always receive volunteers who want to support us because many families go through overwhelming times when, for instance, they come to Miami for a routine exam and get bad news, so our purpose is that here they can entertain themselves”, highlights Soraya.
She says that although it is inevitable to feel sad or be affected when unfortunate events happen, like that month in which they lost 6 children, the organization always tries to approach each situation positively and counts with the support of grieving experts to accompany the families.
They also joyfully receive the stories with a happy ending like that of a 14-year-old girl from Vietnam who came to RMHC with an 8-pound tumor she had had since she was 2 years old. Since the family lived in a remote area, they did not know what a hot meal was, to light a stove or use an elevator.
“The girl’s mom refused to eat our food. However, after educating her on this topic she learned to cook and became friends with all the mothers in the house, she even learned some words in Spanish”, says Soraya.
After a successful surgery and 8 months of staying in the house, the girl was released from the hospital. The day when she had to go, she cried out of emotion while saying ‘I love you McDonald’s’.
Over the years, RMHC kept in touch with her, and that way found out that she began to get better, to have more self-confidence and to become a person who could excel herself. “That was six years ago, and nowadays she seems like another person,” she says.
Stories like these are multiplying every day thanks to the contribution of heroes without a cape that not only exists in Ronald McDonald House Charities but in other organizations that support the recovery of children like St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Mercy Ships, Make A Wish America and Children’s National Medical Center, among others.
For this reason, in this issue, we want to pay tribute to the volunteers who are always in the front row willing to help and to the organizations that they work with. Thank you for impacting the lives of so many families and helping with the recovery of the little ones at home.
Ways to help support the cause
Given the fact that 65 percent of families stay in the house free of charge, donations are the backbone of RMHC for being the primary source to pay for the house maintenance, food, and activities.
There are many ways to contribute, but one of them is through the ‘Share a night’ program that allows paying 3 nights for a value of 60 dollars, which is little compared to the possibility of making a difference in the life of a family that needs to focus on the recovery of its child.
Another option is to volunteer. “Volunteer’s help is priceless. They are serving as a support to many families who come here looking for the best available treatment but do not know anyone or know how they will live”, says Soraya Rivera-Moya.
More information at https://rmhcsouthflorida.org/