Ronald McDonald House provides home away from home

By: Kurt Buesching | April 21, 2012

When a child is in the hospital, parents and family members want to be as nearby as possible. But short of staying up all night or dozing in a chair by the bedside, it’s not always possible.

Enter the Ronald McDonald House of Detroit, a 16,000-square-foot residence that’s 100 steps from Children’s Hospital of Michigan and provides a home-away-from-home for families whose children are receiving inpatient care in any nearby hospital.

The children could be receiving “anything from a simple procedure like a tonsillectomy all the way to major transplants and cancer surgeries,” said Executive Director Jennifer Litomisky. Whatever the case, the Ronald McDonald House provides peace of mind, she says, “so that if a phone call comes in the middle of the night, you can get to your child’s bedside in minutes.”

“Illness knows no holidays, so we’re open 24/7, 365 days a year,” Litomisky explained.

Ronald McDonald House of Detroit was founded in 1979, with startup funding from the Granader family, which owns several Metro Detroit McDonald’s restaurants.

Fashioned in the same vane as some 350 houses around the country, the Ronald McDonald House of Detroit has 25 bedrooms, several common areas like television rooms and play rooms, an exercise room, a quite area and a dining room. The House provides a home away from home for 1,200 families each year.

While at the House, families receive meals and snacks. They can also cook their own meals in the pantry, Litomisky said.

Families typically learn about the Ronald McDonald House and come to stay there through hospitals, which refer families when appropriate. Usually, the families’ children are receiving care at Children’s Hospital, but they may be at other nearby hospitals as well, Litomisky said.

The “true cost” to house a family in one of the rooms is about $195 per night, but Ronald McDonald House charges families just $10 per night, provided they can afford it. If not, they are not turned away, Litomisky said.

Run by 200 volunteers and about 7 employees, the house also has a free day shower for families who may just need a place to clean up before heading back to the hospital.

Eight-five percent of the House’s funding comes from donations and money raised at charity events, with the additional 15 percent coming from Ronald McDonald House Charities and the McDonald’s corporation. Upcoming events include the May 5 Mother’s Day and Children’s Tea at the Royal Park Hotel in Rochester.

For information about how to donate to the Detroit Ronald McDonald House or volunteer, or items requested on the House’s wish list, visit www.rmhc-detroit.org.