Mallory King • News Editor
Ronald McDonald serves up more than “Happy Meals;” he gives hospital patients hope.
According to the Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio website, the house opened in 1982 and by 2008 had a total of 80 rooms. In 2014, it was expanded again to now have a total of 137 rooms, making it the largest in the world.
When a child is admitted to the hospital, families are welcome to stay at the Ronald McDonald House, free of charge.
“We are a home away from home for moms and dads and brothers and sisters…of children who are seriously ill or injured,” said Ryan Wilkins, the Community Relations and Marketing Director of Ronald McDonald House Columbus.
This provides peace of mind to guests.
“[The Ronald McDonald House] honestly just [gives families] a place to go to have a nice sleep that is close to the child that is in the hospital,” said Erin Gassin, a volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House. “It just gives them peace of mind so that they can have a little bit of normalcy.”
The Ronald McDonald House not only cares for families with patients admitted to Nationwide Children’s Hospital, but they help other families in need as well.
“About 95% of those patients are being treated at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, but we do support families that have children in any area hospital here in Central Ohio,” Wilkins said. “The only requirement is that there would be a child that is being treated at the hospital and then the family could stay here so they can be close to their children.”
Some hospitals around Central Ohio have recently expanded their facilities in order to provide the best care possible for their patients.
“At Nationwide Children’s Hospital, there’s a brand new tower that is 12 stories tall and they are treating a million patients now every year,” Wilkins said.
This new tower allows room for even more patients, which has prompted the expansion of the House.
“All of that growth really is what precipitated us needing to grow the Ronald McDonald House,” Wilkins said. ”We were running a waiting list on a regular basis and we really wanted to do everything we could to provide a home away from home for as many families as possible… in order to do that we had to add on some more space.”
The expansion will allow the Ronald McDonald House to serve even more families.
“With our previous facility of 80 guest rooms we were [helping] 3,000 families [per year], so now we are going to be able to serve even more than that,” Wilkins said. “So right now we are able to provide 137 guest rooms for families here at the House… every single night.”
According to the Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio website, the expansion also included a rooftop garden and larger kitchen.
With this new expansion, volunteers are more essential to the House than ever. Running the House takes the effort of many people working together for one common goal, helping families.
“Everything that you would imagine that needs to be done at a hotel is done by volunteers here at the Ronald McDonald
House,” Wilkins said. “From greeting folks at the front door to helping families get checked into their room to the housekeeping.”
The volunteers also do the laundry, cleaning and cooking for guests.
“We really take pride in what we make them,” Gassin said. “We call and find out what the people are making so we don’t repeat the dinner and…we enjoy going down there and making something good and healthy and yummy.”
Volunteers are tremendously impacted by their experiences at the House.
“Just [making] them feel like they are at home, seeing the smiles on their faces and hearing them say ‘thank you,’ that means everything to me, more than anything,” Gassin said.