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Rotary Club Learns About Ronald McDonald House

Story courtesy of Randy Adams

The Carmi Rotary club had a fascinating program on Thursday, as the group welcomed Abigail Adler from the Ronald McDonald House in Evansville. Abigail is the Development Director for the house, and came to tell the Rotarians the Ronald McDonald House story.

The Ronald McDonald House idea started in Philadelphia in 1974. At the time, a Philadelphia Eagle’s football player, Fred Hill, was visiting patients in a hospital in the city. While he was there, he noticed families of children patients literally sleeping in their cars around the hospital grounds, as they attempted to stay close to their sick children.

He began making inquiries and speaking with various groups around the area, and after securing donations, was able to start the first house. The Ronald McDonald name was chosen because that company was the first major corporate sponsor, and because the Ronald McDonald name was also a recognizable name with children.

Since that early beginning, there are now houses on almost every continent on earth. It is important to note that the organization is privately held, not owned by any corporation or hospital. It is not government sponsored in any way either. All funding comes from donations, both large and small.

Speaking of donations, Abigail told the club that every McDonalds in the area belong to a group called the Ohio Valley Co-Op. If you have every noticed the change buckets at McDonalds, the money donated in those small containers is sent to the Ronald McDonald House in Evansville. In all, forty McDonalds are part of the co-op, and 100% of the funds raised goes to the house.

The house in Evansville is a 16,000 square foot building with master suites for families to use. Each suite has bedrooms, a living room, a working kitchen, and bathrooms to provide everything families need while they are going through the ordeal of having a child in the hospital. While staying in the house, there are even passes available to the families for such places as Wessleman Park, Mesker Zoo, and other Evansville attractions. Abigail explained, that many times when one child is sick, the siblings begin to feel cooped up and trapped during the long stays. With these passes, the families can take a little time to focus on the other children as well.

Abigail told the club that it is estimated that the house saves the average family one hundred, fifty dollars per day in hotel and meal expenses. That type of money is critical for families already struggling with the weight of medical bills and gas to travel back and forth.

Abigail explained to the Rotarians that of the 11,000 people served last year, over 4,000 were from Illinois, making it the largest state using the facility.

The big news she was able to share with the club is that a second location will soon be opening in Evansville. The new house is located near the Deaconess Gateway Hospital, and is expected to be as busy if not busier than the first location. Through various fundraisers, over three million dollars was raised to buy the land, build the house, and set up a maintenance fund to keep it running. The new house will open on October 15th.

Abigail was very pleased to talk about a Carmi resident, Lara Carter, who is a VERY active volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House. In fact, Lara is a past recipient of the house’s “Volunteer of the Year” award.

Asked how to become a volunteer, Abigail told the club that volunteers are asked to work one shift per month, with a shift consisting of a three-hour time span. Volunteers either work the front desk during their shift, or perform various maintenance duties around the house. She stressed that volunteers are ALWAYS needed.

Besides the volunteers, the house is staffed with five full time employees and two-part time people. The house is open 24/7, year round. Abigail stressed that before anyone can stay at the house, they go through a screening process by their local hospital to make sure it will be safe for them to be there.

In club business, Lyn Stephens won the 50/50 drawing but did not claim the day’s cash prize. Kent Armstrong was named as the day’s phantom.

The Carmi Rotary clubnormally meets every Thursday at noon at the First United Methodist Church on Main Street in Carmi. Anyone wishing to learn more about this civic organization is welcome to attend a meeting or speak with any Carmi Rotarian.