When I went into labor less than 24 weeks into my pregnancy, I was lucky- my OB sent me to a large university hospital with an adjacent level III NICU. As a result, when my precious little girl was born almost four months early, she was right where she needed to be. I, on the other hand, was two hours from home. So was my husband. And, oh yes, so was our then ten-month old son.
We couldn’t very well make that commute every day… not only was the driving time prohibitive, my husband had to work and I was forbidden from driving following my surgery. We could have stayed in a hotel… for awhile. But the cost of that would have been exorbitant.
The Ronald McDonald House gave us a home away from home. We lived there for exactly 100 days. Families are asked to contribute- if they are able- $10 per night of their stay. Because our stay was so long, the manager insisted on halving that for our family. We had a place to live- and many meals provided- for three and a half months.
Our cost? Five hundred dollars. Amazing.
But they need help to make that happen! Fortunately, there are several very simple ways we can lend a hand. The Ronald McDonald House is always on my heart this time of year because my daughter arrived on Christmas Eve… preparing for the holidays inspires giving.
Here are five quick and easy ways to reach out to families with children in the hospital:
- Buy a Happy Meal. Yes, I know kids’ meals at fast food restaurants have come under fire and I’m not one to advocate making a steady diet of them. However, the simple fact is that many of us rely on these meals occasionally, whether as a treat or out of “necessity” when we’re on the go. By choosing to buy a Happy Meal, you’re also ensuring that a portion of the cost will go to Ronald McDonald House Charities. You can feel good about that part, if not what you’re feeding your kids.
- Toss your spare change in the jar. Almost all McDonald’s restaurants have a change jar inside and often one attached to the drive thru– this money is collected to support the Ronald McDonald houses.
- Save your “pop tabs”. Many schools run collection drives for these but, if yours does not, they can be dropped off at any Ronald McDonald House or children’s hospital. Some McDonald’s restaurants also collect them. Your cans can still be returned for a refund if you live in a state with a deposit. (I do). Think these don’t add up? Check out some these stats.
- Donate gently used toys. So many charities request that all donated toys be new, but many Ronald McDonald houses will gladly accept used toys as well. These are put in a playroom for the siblings of the hospitalized children… what a blessing for these little ones who are away from their homes! Too often, the “healthy” children can be forgotten. This is a way to touch their lives.
- Make a meal. Or clean a kitchen. Or organize a library. If you live within a convenient driving distance to a Ronald McDonald House, I encourage you to visit. They are amazing places and they will welcome you. While you’re there, lend a helping hand. During our stay, there were regularly volunteers helping to deep-clean the kitchens or tidy up the playroom. Groups from churches or businesses would often bless the residents with a hot, fresh dinner or breakfast. It is these special touches that make the House into a Home.
JessieLeigh is the mother of a former 24-week micropreemie and two full-term blessings as well. She is a determined advocate for the tiniest of babies, including the unborn, and a firm believer in faith and miracles. She shares about raising such a precious, tiny baby over at Parenting the Tiniest of Miracles.