35 YEARS KEEPING FAMILIES CLOSE IN ANN ARBOR
One can only imagine what it was like to open the doors to the Ronald McDonald House Ann Arbor 35 years ago. The House was created with community support from the Junior League of Ann Arbor, McDonald’s restaurant owners and operators, and many compassionate individuals and organizations. I am sure they felt an immense amount of joy, pride, and a fair amount of anxiousness.
They saw a dire need. Many in the local community heard the stories, and some saw first-hand, how scared parents with seriously sick children were living in hospital waiting rooms for weeks. Families sleeping in their cars and vans. Some moms or dads separated from the rest of the family for weeks while staying with their sick child in the hospital. Parents not leaving their seriously-ill child’s bedside for days on end. Emotionally raw, exhausted, in desperate need of the basic comforts of home.
Maybe a few of them could afford a hotel. But none of them could afford to be even fifteen, twenty, or thirty minutes away from their child when crisis spiked and life-and-death decisions needed to be made.
Our founding mission was to provide families with seriously sick children desperately needed respite and support as their children received life-saving treatment at local hospitals. The same mission is true today, 35 years later. Since 1985, more than 30,000 families facing the most difficult times of their lives have walked through our doors, thanks to our generous supporters and partners.
For 35 years, we have provided families with a clean and comfortable bed for a few precious hours to sleep. A place to shower, to brush their teeth, and put on their armor to face the day. A warm meal, a cup of coffee, a healthy snack. A game room to distract siblings from their frightening reality. Less tangible, but equally important, our staff stayed close by and ready with a strong shoulder, a listening ear, a tissue to catch their tears, and a comforting hug. All for one purpose: to allow parents and families to focus on what’s important. The healing of their seriously sick child.
The Main House first opened with 24 rooms. Over many years, expansions and renovations have enabled us to now accommodate 31 families each and every night in the Main House. In 2011, we opened the Mott House inside C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, providing 12 additional rooms, bringing our total capacity to serving 43 families nightly.
In 2018, we saw a new need. Local families were in need of comfort items while spending time in the hospital with their seriously sick children. Personal hygiene items, fuzzy socks, and blankets for families sitting bedside. We rose to the challenge and began a new program called “Hospitality a la Carte”. This wheeled hospitality cart rounds the hospital five days a week bringing comfort to thousands of local families not staying in one of our Houses.
As Executive Director for Ronald McDonald House Charities Ann Arbor for more than 10 years, I’m deeply grateful for the vision of our founders and community support that has brought their vision to life. We celebrate 35 years of service to children and families. Along with our current Board of Directors and staff, I look to the future with immense joy, pride, and a fair amount of anticipation – just like our founders felt.
In this era of the pandemic, it’s difficult to find clarity about the future. But I am crystal clear about a couple of things.
We remain committed to serving families when the unimaginable happens. When a child becomes seriously sick, families here in Ann Arbor and across the country can count on us to provide comfort and to help keep them close to their seriously sick child. To deliver on that commitment, we are working with area health system partners, evaluating our capacity and developing a strategic plan to meet the growing needs of local families and families from afar.
It’s also very clear we can’t do this critical work without you. Just as we were founded by the community with community support 35 years ago – we look forward to creating the next 35 years together with members and supporters from our community. All for the purpose of keeping families close, when they need it most.
Ronald McDonald House Charities Ann Arbor