Throughout this pandemic childhood illness hasn't stopped. Unfortunately, Christmas is no different to any other time of year for many families who have seriously ill children in hospital.
In fact, this Christmas there will be 20 families staying at The Ronald McDonald House at CHI Crumlin that desperately wish they were at home. The Ronald McDonald House provides more than just a place to stay for families while their child is seriously ill. The House keeps families together and gives them the chance to make memories that are all the more precious because of their circumstances.
Having hosted more than 4,300 families since opening its doors in 2004, Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) provides a home-away-from-home for 20 families, who can rely on a clean and controlled environment to stay, close to their children who are undergoing treatment in Children’s Health Ireland, at Crumlin. This accommodation is especially important for families living outside of Dublin, who would be faced with the financial burden of finding accommodation in the city to stay close to their child.
The staff and volunteers go to incredible lengths to make the whole month of December special for families. So while families are far from home, they are still able to feel the ‘Christmas spirit’ that is so important. A fireplace is even set up in the House so Santa can visit as usual even though these families are not at home.
This year hospitals have had to restrict visits to one parent, and the House provides a haven for families between visits. This service has been vital for families of children with long-term illnesses who cannot rely on the support network of extended family throughout the COVID-19 crisis.
Christmas in hospital isn’t something to look forward to. It is stressful and it takes families away from their loved ones and friends. This hardship is only multiplied when you consider the financial burden upon these families at this time of year as well as the uncertainty the pandemic has brought for them. The Ronald McDonald House is striving to give these families a sense of normality this Christmas, and above anything else, to be together.
The current Ronald McDonald House sits onsite at CHI at Crumlin, one of the three main paediatric hospitals in the country. It houses 20 families a night from across the island of Ireland. The current Ronald McDonald House on average provides over 12,000 meals a year to these families and collectively saves these families approx. €700,000 annually. The Ronald McDonald House has a 95.5% occupancy rate.
This year Ronald McDonald House Charities anticipate €500k shortfall in fundraising due to COVID-19, culminating in December with the cancellation of their annual Christmas Ball. The event that takes place every year usually fundraises €100k+ for the charity. It costs €60 a night to keep a family in The Ronald McDonald House, close to their sick child in hospital. Support is urgently needed to ensure that the charity can continue to provide accommodation to these families in their time of need.
As you can imagine, this year the families benefiting from the House have dealt with the additional anxieties of the pandemic while continuing to manage the impact of life-changing diagnoses. Now that Christmas is around the corner the charity is issuing a final appeal to combat the shortfall in funding this year has brought.
The Ryan family, from Cork, will be one of the families staying at the House this Christmas. The Ryans first stayed together in the Ronald McDonald House when daughter Kate was born with a complex heart condition. Kate’s condition means she needs lifelong treatment. The family stay at the House anytime Kate is admitted to CHI, at Crumlin and look at it as a second home. Kate turned 4 this month (14th of December) meaning the family will be celebrating both Christmas and a birthday this year in the House.
‘Very quickly, our world turned up-side down,’ Kate’s mother, Sandra says, ‘As we were told there was a problem with the baby. And that was horrendous. And then we were told that the problem with the baby meant…she would need numerous surgeries and that meant we would have to stay in Dublin for a prolonged time. So once we got our head around that initial diagnosis, the practicalities of everything hit us.
‘How were we going to do this, how were we going to move to Dublin…what were we going to do?…And the answer down the (RMHC) phone was, “Don’t worry, you’ll be fine. We will sort you out. When baby is born and everything is settled down, you ring us, and we’ll sort you out.”’
Marian Carroll, Chief Executive Officer (Volunteer), said ’Having a sick child in hospital creates untold physical, mental and emotional challenges and Covid-19 has exacerbated the anxiety and fear felt by our families this year.'
The RMHC mission is to provide a safe and secure home for families while their children receive treatment in hospital and our service is more important today than ever before. Delivering the service this year has been challenging on so many levels.
Since opening in 2004 Christmas has been the highlight of the year and a special time for RMHC families, staff and volunteers. This year it is essential to provide an extra special Christmas in the House at this very difficult time. They need the people of Ireland to help them deliver a wonderful Christmas to all the families that will need to stay with them at The Ronald McDonald House.
To support families of sick children in hospital this Christmas, visit www.rmhc.ie to donate directly or text HOUSE to 50300 to donate €4