Tami’s Blog: A New Ronald McDonald House inside Children’s Mercy Hospital!

I have exciting news to share: We are opening a new, fourth Ronald McDonald House here in Kansas City!  This new House will be in a familiar place–what used to be known as our Family Room inside Children’s Mercy has been transformed into a full-on Ronald McDonald House right inside the hospital!

This is of course huge news for us and for the families we serve!  More rooms, improved space, serving more families!  It’s also admittedly a little bittersweet.  I keep thinking about all the families who will need us here: families with a child in one of the Intensive Care Units at Children’s Mercy.  I can’t help but feel a little somber and reflective about the situations that will unfold in this new House.

(L to R: Jenna Rieger, Paul Kempinski, Whitney Bartelli, Brian Gremaud, Sara Bister, Sheri Gormley, Tami Greenberg, Teresa Keller, Holly O’Keefe, Jodi Ward, Mike Frazier, Tirzah Gregory, Anne Scharf, Kelly Simari, Michael Chalfie, Stacie Prosser, Richard Hu, Greg Fendler)

There’s also more than a little nostalgia that comes with saying goodbye to the “old” Ronald McDonald Family Room.  It has been a sacred place for many families, where they grieved losses and experienced miracles. Now, as a Ronald McDonald House, it will continue to be a sacred space – serving more families, better.

Something we are very proud of is that Kansas City is where the concept of the Ronald McDonald Family Room was first invented!  In 1992, our leadership volunteers Marilyn Dobski and Dr. Brad Warady realized that sometimes, it’s too far to walk a block to the House. Sometimes your child is so sick, you don’t want to be more than a few steps away. What if there was a place right inside the hospital where families could eat, get some sleep, or take a shower? 

That idea led to radical improvements in family-centered care, which has brought 270 Ronald McDonald Family Rooms to hospitals in 30 countries across the world, including our own, a seven-bedroom space inside Children’s Mercy. 

We first started dreaming of big improvements inside Children’s Mercy a few years ago, when we opened our second Ronald McDonald Family Room inside Overland Park Regional in 2022.  And if you’ve ever done a renovation, you know how quickly ideas of fresh paint grow into plans to move walls and re-envision space! 

So that’s just what we did.  We remodeled the whole space to add (bigger and better) bedrooms, laundry, bathrooms, and kitchen/eating areas.  We will now have a ten-bedroom Ronald McDonald House, staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, right inside the hospital. 

That 24/7 thing is especially important.  When you’re in the hospital, your days and nights are turned around.  “Regular” hours often don’t apply.  Now families with a child in the ICU can get something to eat in our kitchen 24 hours a day. Take a shower or do laundry at any hour of the day or night.  Have the space, time, and support they need to be overwhelmed, to hope and to grieve. 

There’s a lot that goes into building a new, stand-alone Ronald McDonald House…  Creating one inside the walls of a hospital requires extra precision, skill, and care!  I’m SO grateful for the teams at Pulse Design and JE Dunn Construction who were absolute pros every step of the way.  And none of this would be possible without our friends and partners at Children’s Mercy.  I know all of us are super excited that this work is about to come to fruition for families of sick kids!

So it’s exciting, it’s a little bittersweet, and there are also a few challenges.  One challenge will be that, because the space had to be temporarily closed during the expansion, our year will look different for us on paper.  The number of families we’ve served is less than last year, only because we didn’t have the space open that we normally do.  The good news is that we’d planned on an early fall opening but will be done ahead of schedule and able to start serving families at the new House in just a few weeks.

While the new House inside the hospital is for sure a cause of celebration—we always want to help more families—it’s a short-lived one.  The reality is, we still won’t have enough rooms.  With the trends in pediatric healthcare, and since Children’s Mercy is such a world-class institution, more families than ever are coming to the KC area for treatment for their children. Plus, people are coming from farther and farther away, and staying longer. 

I worry that our supporters will hear about our new House inside CMH and think, “Oh, great! So you’re all set for a while.” But we still don’t have enough room for all the families who need us, and that’s what keeps me up at night. 

Are you wondering how you can help families being served in this new space?  Volunteer!  We need your help!  Corporate teams, families, friends, civic groups – all are welcome!  Everyone who will be served in this Ronald McDonald House inside Children’s Mercy will have a child in the ICU.  And all of their meals will be provided by volunteers.  That could be you!  We need volunteers now more than ever.  Please click here to find out more!

I wish families didn’t need us at all, I wish that every child was healthy!  But kids DO get sick, and Children’s Mercy and other area healthcare providers are doing life-saving and life-changing work … and kids and parents need to keep close so they can fight together. It’s our honor to be able to provide these essential services that remove barriers, strengthen families, and promote healing when children and families need us most.