Ronald McDonald Family Room opens in Rogers

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 366 views 

It’s been nearly two years in the making, a true labor of love by a handful local leaders and health care advocates, but the Ronald McDonald Family Room at Mercy Hospital in Rogers opened its doors on Tuesday (July 16).

The 3,200-square-foot home-away-from-home is second to none, according to Bill Mathews, president of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Arkoma, based in Springdale.

He said Ronald McDonald charities is a global program in 57 countries serving seven million people each year.

This is the second time the local charity has partnered with Mercy Health System to expand services to families with critically ill children. Mathews said two years ago the charity opened a Family Room in Mercy Hospital in Fort Smith. Since that time, Dick Trammel, Barbara Rook and others have worked to get the doors opened in Northwest Arkansas.

“We have seen first-hand how the Family Room was received in Fort Smith, and expect the need to be greater in Northwest Arkansas,” Mathews said

He told the crowd of about 100 people at Tuesday’s grand opening that too many times parents with sick children are faced with sleeping in their cars or camping out in hospital waiting rooms for days because they can’t afford to go to a local hotel. They long to be near their sick child and rarely leave the hospital, he explained.

“We can offer them comfortable accommodations right here in the hospital and there is never a charge,” Mathews said.

Mandy McDonald of Rogers has spent 51 days in Mercy Hospital, on two different occasions after giving premature birth to each of her daughters.

“That qualifies me as an expert room-in mom,” McDonald said at the press conference.

Both of her daughters, Anna, 5 and 4-month-old Grace, were born at 34 weeks and spent nearly three weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit at Mercy in Rogers. She said the last thing a parent wants to do is leave the hospital without their child. And while the local hospital had courtesy room, it was often in use and not set up for families.

“I know we used the courtesy room this spring, we even had our Easter egg hunt in there, not optimal, but we made it work,” McDonald said. “Having a place to stay near my newborn was crucial and this new facility offers laundry, prepared meals, room for your other children to play and it’s very close to the NICU.”

Scott Street, CEO of Mercy NWA, said when he was approached by Dick Trammel in September 2011 about making room for this project, all he could say was “Yes sir.”

He said Mercy’s mission of caring is a perfect fit with the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Arkoma.

The new facility features 4 bedrooms to be utilized overnight and during the day for napping, a fully stocked kitchen, 2.5 bathrooms, a double laundry room, dining room, family storage and more, the Family Room will be open 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.

“Studies show children heal better and faster when loved ones are near,” said Stephanie Medford, executive director, Ronald McDonald Charities of Arkoma Inc. “It is crucial to ensure family members are rested, fed and comfortable in order to make informed decisions about their child’s health and well-being.”

She said the mission is an ongoing endeavor that took $450,000 to construct, with a a total goal of $700,000 for complete finish out, and roughly 65% of those funds have been raised to date. Medford said there are plenty of naming opportunities and sponsorships still available for the Rogers facility.

The annual maintenance costs will run about $115,000, which are mostly staff related, according to Medford.

She said the Family Room in Fort Smith has had more than 18,000 daily visits since opening in December 2010 and has served more than 1,000 families.

“We expect this Rogers location to have several thousand visits per year,” Medford added.

Local patron Ashely Newby, said she relished the opportunity to sponsor a room in the local facility because she spent two and a half weeks in a Ronald McDonald House in Little Rock when her son Kyrus had complications at birth seven years ago.

“A facility like this was so needed in this growing region, this is a good day,” Newby said.