Celebrating one year of home away from home at the Ronald McDonald House Toronto Family Room
By: Katie Grandin
The Ronald McDonald House Toronto (RMH) Family Room at SickKids recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. And while it's only been a year since it first opened its doors, the RMH Family Room has already had a huge impact, welcoming a staggering 50,782 visits from 1,337 families at SickKids.
"While it took four years to get here, it's wonderful to celebrate the impact it's had in just one year. Families have been able to find that little bit of comfort and respite that they need in the middle of difficult and chaotic situations," said Jane Marco, CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities Toronto in her address at the celebration.
The RMH Family Room is a space for rest and relaxation for families in a time of difficulty and disruption from their day-to-day lives. The space offers the comforts of home to families of critical care patients, including a sleep room, multiple semi-private recliners and a lounge area. There is also a full kitchen in which families can prepare a home cooked meal, a washer and dryer for laundry, showers and free coffee, tea and snacks for all visitors. Since its inception, the sleep room has hosted 363 overnight stays, and families have spent 17,168 hours resting in the recliners, amounting to a total of 715 days of rest.
The RMH Family Room offers families many comforting amenities, but it's the volunteers that are at the core of the operation, taking time out of their lives to make someone else's day brighter. Its 65 volunteers have donated 6,687 hours of their time to ensuring that this space continues to be a warm and welcoming refuge for families.
"What makes a difference could be that smile, that cup of coffee or that rest they get when they walk through the doors. Our families wouldn't feel that without our volunteers," said Marco.
May Mansourian, a recent nursing graduate, was looking for a job and decided to volunteer at the RMH Family Room during her search. After four months of volunteering and success in finding a job, she says she doesn't feel the need to leave her volunteer position.
"This is my day off and I thought any day that I can come in I'm going to because I truly enjoy what I do here and what I do for the families," says Mansourian. "Regardless that now I have a job, my mindset is that I want to help families and that's all I think about now."
Mansourian recalls one mother's grateful and elated reaction to receiving a bag of toiletries upon her arrival to the RMH Family Room.
"It was really touching and moving and made me realize how important this space is to this family. You don't even think about shampoo and mouthwash when your child is critically ill, it's the last thing on your mind so for her it was like a gift."
For Julie Gulerres, volunteering in the RMH Family Room began as an effort to gain experience for her future career in social work, but after only three weeks, she says her experience has also benefited her people skills while allowing her to give back to the community.
"I was blown away that this service has only been available for a year because I see the dire need for it in how many families come in and out and how welcome they feel," says Gulerres. "They have a connection to the people who volunteer and work here, it makes me feel really warm inside. I am so grateful that this service is available and that I can be a part of it."
Ronald McDonald House Charities Toronto encompasses the Ronald McDonald House in Toronto which houses 81 families a night and provides support and schooling services, as well as three Family Rooms in paediatric hospitals across the Greater Toronto Area, including Credit Valley Hospital, Markham Stouffville Hospital and SickKids.