OKC Ronald McDonald House to more than double its space
Oklahoma City — Susan Adams had known for a while that Oklahoma City's Ronald McDonald House needed more space for families with hospitalized children. She expected a long road of fundraising and construction.
A $2.4 million gift from pharmaceutical company AbbVie has sped up that timeline, allowing the facility to avoid multiple phases of construction and the disruption that comes with it, said Adams, the president and CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Oklahoma City.
Initially, she expected they would start by building only the new bedrooms, and would have to try to feed more than twice as many families out of the existing kitchen.
“It would have strained the capacity,” she said.
Ronald McDonald House has 14 rooms on the third floor of Garrison Tower, which is connected via an elevated walkway to The Children's Hospital at OU Medicine. It also has an arrangement for up to 14 rooms at a nearby Holiday Inn, if needed.
When construction is done in 2020, it will have an additional 26 rooms, a second kitchen and more space for families to gather, Adams said. The house and the hotel rooms often are full, and they have had to turn away 414 families this year as of Thursday, she said.
The new rooms will go on the fourth floor, which has more space available, Adams said. The expansion also will have a salon and activity rooms for exercise classes, she said.
“This gift from AbbVie is transformational for us,” she said.
Laura Schumacher, executive vice president of external affairs at AbbVie, said having a child in the hospital is one of the most difficult experiences for a family.
“Our donation is grounded in the shared belief that families should have the necessary resources to care for a hospitalized child, along with the support to strengthen their well-being and resiliency during a challenging time,” she said in a news release.
Requests for a room have increased about 57 percent over the last three years, Adams said. More than 800 families from 73 Oklahoma counties, 16 other states and one foreign country stayed at the Ronald McDonald House in 2017.
Jon Hayes, president of The Children's Hospital, said the hospital attracts a significant number of families from the corners of Oklahoma. OU Children's is the only place in the state that performs certain pediatric heart surgeries, he said.
“Those are obviously recoveries that are several days or longer before they're even out of intensive care, let alone discharged from the hospital,” he said.
The Ronald McDonald House also is particularly helpful for parents with a child in the neonatal intensive-care unit, Hayes said. The average stay is 21 days — already a substantial expense, if you have to get a hotel room every night — but some babies stay much longer, he said.
Case workers try to help families find a hotel room when the Ronald McDonald House is full, Hayes said, but parents would rather not worry about where they'll sleep and eat.
“Families are preoccupied with one thing only, and that's the care of their child,” he said.
Adams said the house will need additional volunteers when the expansion opens, and will continue to need donations of food, hygiene supplies and toys. To make a donation, call Adams, 405-424-6873, extension 104, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.