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The House that Love Built

Although bittersweet when families leave Ronald McDonald House, many keep in touch

Michelle D’Amore was sitting at her office desk one day when a mom who was visiting from the Dominican Republic plopped a plate of delicious homemade food in front of her. “Eat,” said the mom, who was staying at the Ronald McDonald House at 34 Chapin Terrace in Springfield while her child was receiving medical treatment nearby. Michelle accepted with gratitude.

Michelle, the chief executive officer of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Connecticut and Western Massachusetts, admits that she has quite a few heartwarming stories to share from working at the organization. “We see a family whose story is different from the next family’s story,” she says. “Yet they are all similar in that they are all going through a medical crisis with a child.”

Next year Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) will turn 50, commemorating the first house built in Philadelphia to assist families in need whose children were hospitalized or receiving outpatient treatment at a nearby hospital or medical facility. The organization’s website states that any family with a child under 21 years of age is eligible to stay at one of their houses. Families are asked to donate $15 per night for their stay, but are never turned away for an inability to contribute.

RMHC has 185 homes in the United States and 385 homes internationally. The Springfield house, which partners with Baystate Medical Center and Shriners Children’s New England, was established in 1991. Families and children are welcome to stay for as long as their children are receiving active medical care.

Michelle says that families, who come from New England and beyond, have stayed one night or up to a year, depending on a child’s illness and treatment needs. In the houses, families have private guest rooms, some with private bathrooms, and common kitchen and dining areas, living rooms, and play areas for children. The spaces are decorated with a welcoming, homelike ambiance. Families can bring their own food, but fresh food items are always available. Bedding and linens and free on-site laundry facilities are also included.

The Springfield house has 20 guest rooms, plus a room that non-overnight families can reserve for up to three hours should they just need a shower or rest. “It is the house that love built,” Michelle says. “We’re proud of it and we have a great team. There are days we wish we could do more, but I consider it a blessing every day to do the work I do.”

The organization does not provide clinical care; its houses offer a caring space for warm, comfortable respite. This is particularly significant since sitting bedside at a hospital with a child receiving medical treatment lacks the amenities and sense of home that Ronald McDonald House provides.

“It’s been proven that children heal quicker when their families are with them,” Michelle explains. To help maintain such quality and care for families in their time of need, RMHC relies heavily on donations. This includes financial assistance, but also donated items such as fresh food, kitchen and household items, baby monitors, and first aid kits, among many other needs.

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Connecticut and Western Massachusetts holds seven annual fundraising events, three of which are run by the Springfield location. These include an annual gala in the spring and a golf tournament in the summer. Their most recent event was held last month with the Trees of Hope campaign. Community volunteers, including teens, are a valuable asset to the organization, performing functions from collecting pop tabs, hosting fundraisers, and giving their time in the office and kitchen.

For more information about supporting Ronald McDonald House, visit rmhc-ctma.org or call 413.794.5683 (LOVE).

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