Ronald McDonald House breaks ground on expansion
Jamie Owen is from Rosman, N.C., which is about five hours from North Carolina Children’s Hospital, where her son, Lane, 16, is being treated for meningitis.
Owen said her son was hospitalized after what looked like gangrene had started to consume her son following extensive scabbing during his treatment for meningitis. She’s been living in the Ronald McDonald House in Chapel Hill since February while Lane receives care.
“I told him we’ll take our time,” she said. “We’ll get there.”
Lane has lost both feet, a pinky finger, several fingertips and several fingers above the knuckle. Owen said her son almost didn’t believe her Monday when she told him he had had his last surgery.
Since 1988, the Ronald McDonald House in Chapel Hill has helped more than 36,000 families who have children battling life-threatening and sometimes terminal illnesses.
Tuesday’s groundbreaking for a 24,000-square-foot expansion marked the beginning of the charitable organization having room for some of the more than 800 families who are turned away annually.
“As the growth of the Children’s Hospital continues, we’ve had to turn away families and that’s not a happy thing to do,” said Chris Woodfin, board president of the Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill. “Our goal is that we welcome everyone who comes to us for assistance and say, ‘We have room. We can accommodate you.’”
Owen is one of the families that the House was able to accommodate.
“When I first got here I didn’t know what I was going to do but I got here and they had a room ready for me,” Owen said.
The $7.5 million expansion project will add 20 long-term stay suites with special apartments for end-of-life care and transplant recipients, four short-term stay guest rooms, a communal kitchen and large room for dining and outdoor play area and gardens to the existing site.
The project also includes the pediatrics palliative care pilot program “Loving Hands”. The expansion is expected to be completed by fall 2015 and will increase the number of available rooms from 29 to 53.
According to Diane Hartley, Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill capital campaign co-chairwoman, $6 million has been raised for the project so far. McDonald’s owners and operators have pledged $670,000 through the Ronald McDonald House Charities of North Carolina.
“The Ronald McDonald House has a critically important relationship with the Children’s Hospital,” said Dr. Wesley Burks, physician in chief at the N.C. Children’s Hospital. “It provides accommodations in a warm and friendly atmosphere. The number of critically ill children is growing over time. It’s important to serve the next generation of children who come to the hospital.”
Tina Davis and her 6-year-old son, Khalil Wright, are among the families the Ronald McDonald House is able to serve. Wright has sickle cell anemia and had his first stroke at age 3. Davis said that since then Wright had to have monthly blood transfusions and a bone marrow transplant from his older brother.
“It’s been a really big help,” she said. “There are people here who are similar to him so he doesn’t feel like he’s different. It’s just been a blessing. The Ronald McDonald House is heaven sent.”
Davis lives in Willow Springs but has spent the past four months in the Ronald McDonald House with Wright and two of his siblings, TJ, 2, and Leeya, 8 months. Davis has even found additional support for herself and other parents through the prayer and a support group she created, The Wailing Women.
“This expansion is going to be good for him and other people in his situation whose immune systems have been compromised,” Davis said. “And it’s an opportunity for more families to come in.”