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About Sickkids
About SickKids

October 1, 2014

Ronald McDonald House Toronto opens Family Room at SickKids

By Christine Wolfl

Jennifer Lewis knows first-hand what it is like spending day after day caring for a seriously ill child. When her daughter Sydney was born she was a fragile 1 lb., 15 oz. preemie with a rough road ahead of her. Now, about to celebrate her six-month birthday in the NICU, Sydney, the Lewis’ “little braveheart” has come a long way, overcoming a heart surgery and many other challenges.

After enduring countless long days and nights surrounded by beeping machines and nowhere to just relax near the NICU, Lewis was relieved when the Ronald McDonald House Toronto Family Room at SickKids opened this past summer. For Lewis, her husband and their extended family, the Family Room has been a huge comfort, a refuge that is always just one floor away from Sydney.

“It was nice to find a spot that wasn’t medically driven. It’s quiet – not like the unit, which is always hopping,” she says. “It’s difficult to be away from home, and we’re getting used to our new routine. To be able to take 30 minutes to sit and eat and have a warm cup of tea, and to know someone is there to support you, means a lot.”

The Family Room at SickKids, the largest of its kind in the Greater Toronto Area, is open 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. It offers a retreat for families with seriously ill children, where they can recharge and relax, without having to leave the hospital.

“The Ronald McDonald House Family Room only opened a few months ago and it’s clear that the space is already having a significant impact on the lives of families at SickKids,” said Dr. Mike Apkon, President and CEO at SickKids.

The experience of having a sick child has a profound impact on the whole family. It can be exhausting, stressful and all-consuming. The Family Room is a space to enjoy some of the comforts of home like taking a nap in a private pod, reading a magazine by the fireplace or enjoying a cup of tea and a bit of quiet time. The space offers televisions, a fireplace, a kitchenette with light refreshments, computers with Wi-Fi, washrooms with shower facilities, laundry facilities and a play area for siblings in a quiet and serene environment.

“By being just steps away from their sick child in this relaxing environment parents and caregivers can be more present for their child and gain the support they need to carry on," said Jane Marco, Chief Executive Officer, RMH Toronto.

Like Lewis, Maria Cooley knows what it’s like to care for a seriously ill child. Her daughter, Penny, has been in the NICU for five months. Since the opening of the Family Room, Cooley has peace of mind knowing she can shower, sleep and relax without the worry of leaving her daughter.

“It is really a small escape from reality. When you think the world is falling on your head, just having that small break to visit the room is incredibly relaxing,” said Cooley.

For parents like Lewis and Cooley the Family Room provides a much needed “home away from home.”

See how the Family Room is providing a home away from home for SickKids parents Stephanie and Stefan.

Learn more information on the Ronald McDonald Family Room at SickKids.