When a child is born or becomes sick and requires critical medical care, the focus turns to find the necessary and timely care. The last thing on a parent’s mind is where they will stay or where the next meal is coming from. For nearly four decades, the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Tampa Bay (RMHC) has provided families that “home away from home” during extremely difficult moments in their lives.
Last year the average stay at RMHC Tampa Bay was 10 nights, while the longest was 312 nights. One can only imagine how those parents might feel as they arrive at the house under such devastating circumstances. Desperately hoping for their child to be healthy enough so they can go home. But since they can’t, parents and siblings stay worry-free at houses while children get the specialized care they need. There is no income requirement for families and any family with a child that needs specialty hospital treatment can stay. While families are asked to make a small donation ($10) per night, no one is ever turned away due to inability to contribute.
RMHC in the Community
RMHC is a national organization, but locally there are four houses across the St. Pete – Tampa Bay area that serves John Hopkins All Children’s, Tampa General Hospital, St. Joseph’s Children’s, Shriner’s hospitals and other local pediatric care centers. The first house, St. Pete “West”, was the first RHMC house in Florida and in its early days operated as a converted home housing parents who were going back and forth between All Children’s. Since that first house in 1980, RHMC of Tampa Bay has grown into the four houses it is today and has served over 50,000 families.
RMHC of Tampa Bay relies on its donors, volunteers, and staff to ensure their mission comes to life. With over 450 volunteers, over 20,000+ hours have been given annually to help the run the house. Fulfilling responsibilities such as making meals, registering and checking-in families, and other day-to-day operations of the houses.
Local Support Makes All the Difference
There are so many ways to get involved with the houses. Every year there are local events like Fishing for Hearts, Charity Golf Classic, Clay Tournament, and the Storybook Ball. There are opportunities to volunteer at the house and for those looking to make a donation, the houses always have an active wish list of items that help make families feel more at home.
One local volunteer comes in every single week and donates two jugs of flavored creamer. It’s the little things that make the house feel like a home.
“Any donation really makes a difference. There is no gift too small,” according to Lisa Suprenand, Executive Director for RHMC of Tampa Bay.
Getting Involved with RMHC
Those interested in volunteer opportunities should go to the Get Involved page. Here are some ideas of how you and your family can help:
- Kids can make happy cards
- Pre-packaged snack-size bags are great so parents can take a snack to the hospital (many times they spend the entire day at the hospital before coming back for dinner)
- Flavored creamer
- Cupcakes (who doesn’t love a cupcake?)
- Colored napkins (something simple like this can brighten someone’s day)
- $5 Gift cards (for teens in the house) Such as Amazon, I-tunes or Chipotle
- Toys are great for toddlers & small kids
- Kids can even do their own fundraisers like penny drives or collect new books
The rule of thumb is simple. If your child wants it… a child at RMHC would love it!
I’ve gone to the houses several times to volunteer for the “make a meal” program and can tell you the houses are very special places. Between the staff and volunteers, everyone that sets food inside is there to create a warm and welcoming place for families. The mission of “a home away from home” is felt so authentically throughout every house.