We provide a home away from home for 31 families each night by providing a private room and all the comforts of home. This allows families to find strength in numbers and focus on the treatment and recovery of their child. Since 1982, we have served over 31,000 families with children diagnosed with heart complications, premature birth, cancer, kidney problems, brain tumors, burns, leukemia, seizures and other ailments from all of Florida’s 67 counties and around the globe.
The Ronald McDonald House Family Room is located adjacent to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital. The Family Room offers comfort and support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to families with seriously ill children receiving medical care at the hospital. Staffed by a team of friendly volunteers, the Ronald McDonald Family Room offers snacks, a small kitchen, an area to sleep and relax, telephone, television, computer and activities for children.
Here are a few stories from families who have found comfort in our House. You can view more family stories and ambassador stories by clicking "See More Fundraisers" in the right hand column.
Charlotte and her husband were thrilled to welcome their first child into the world. They had spent hours preparing the nursery, buying clothes for their little girl, and making sure everything was just right for her arrival. But that excitement turned to fear and worry when their baby was whisked away to the neonatal intensive care unit after being born premature.
Endless questions raced through her mind. ”I knew I had to stay close to my baby, but how could I afford month-long stays in hotels? Where would I get my next meal? My husband had to keep working to afford the medical bills…how would I be able to make it on my own in a city I had never been to before?”
Thanks to the resources at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital, Charlotte found out about the Ronald McDonald House, where she stayed throughout the time that her baby needed care. She had a room, home-cooked meals every night, and the support of four other families who also had a premature baby receiving care.
Charlotte's baby, Christina, grew stronger each day, and after 3 months Christina was discharged and she joined her family. Charlotte has continued to come back and visit our staff. “We felt so blessed to have the House available to us during one of the most difficult times of our lives. To be able to be close to our daughter was priceless. ”
When Jael was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 3, her parents, Erik and Barb, were in total disbelief. After her tumor was completely removed at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando, Jael needed chemotherapy to eliminate any possible remaining cancer. She and her family, including younger sister Heidi, traveled from Daytona Beach to Shands Children’s Hospital to continue her treatment. They stayed at the Ronald McDonald House during the three months Jael was receiving treatment and had a place to call home that was close to the hospital.
“We were relieved to have a place to stay that would keep our family together. My girls loved the playground and playroom and my husband and I used the internet to keep our friends and family updated,” Barb said. “Having the kitchen and access to community food took a great deal of stress off of our family.”
Erik and Barb’s interactions with the families and staff at the Ronald McDonald House gave them hope during Jael’s treatment. they were surrounded by people who understood what their family was going through and could comfort them in their time of need. They still remain in contact with the families they met at the House.
Jael has been cancer free since her family’s stay with us, and they are all grateful to have had our House to go to in their time of need. “The Ronald McDonald House is a great resource for any family who has a child in the hospital or treatment,” said Barb. “It is a place to decompress, sleep and be a family.”