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Ronald McDonald House at Stanford creates a home-away-from-home and supportive community for families of children with life-threatening illnesses receiving specialized treatment at local hospitals.
In the early 70's, the daughter of Philadelphia Eagle's football player Fred Hill was diagnosed with leukemia. After "living" countless hours by her bedside, trying to sleep endless nights without a bed, Hill recognized the need felt by all parents of a little one facing a serious illness--the need for a "home" where they could stay while their child received treatment.Because of Hill's ambition, the support from the hospital and community, and the generosity of McDonald's Owner/Operators, the first Ronald McDonald House opened in 1974.
In 1979, the Palo Alto House became the fifth facility in the fledgling national system. Built with 13 rooms, the House sought to provide a meeting center and living quarters for outpatients and families of patients of what was then known as Children's Hospital at Stanford. The House was operating at 100% capacity almost every night by 1983, and a year later would be turning families away due to lack of rooms.
In 1992, the House finished construction on an ambitious expansion project, nearly doubling in size to 24 rooms. During the planning phase, the decision was made to include a Bone Marrow Transplant Wing in the new facility. Equipped with separate entrances and HEPA air filters, the Wing provides children with severely compromised immune systems a safe environment, outside of the hospital, in which to recover.
Over the years, a loyal donor base grew. The "Children's Circle" was created in 1994 to honor annual donors whose significant gifts support operations, endowment or capital expenses. The same year, Honey Meir-Levi was hired as Executive Director. With a revised mission, focused on enhancing the quality of programs to complement the new facility, the House continued to see a high demand for its services.
Just five years after expanding, families were once again being turned away as the House continued to operate at capacity. Unable to accommodate them onsite, but committed to providing a room for every family, the House began paying for stays at local motels. The Board of Directors agreed to expand the House for a second time.Despite construction costs that skyrocketed, and the "Dot Com Bust" that weakened the economy, in 2003 the spacious 47 room facility, as it stands today, was completed.
Ronald McDonald House at Stanford continues to see an overwhelming number of families requesting a place to stay. This home-away-from-home is full nearly every night of the year, forced to turn away families in need. Additionally, families are staying longer amounts of time. Medical advances and innovative research are allowing doctors to treat and save children who were once thought terminal and perform more sophisticated procedures in outpatient settings, which require young patients to stay in close proximity to the hospital.
The House now offers families so much more than its founders could have hoped for. It's more than a room with a shower and a bed. The program offerings at the House have grown exponentially and make a huge impact in creating the community environment that supports these families.
- Monica Makela
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