This week, the first Ronald McDonald Family Room in Central Ohio opened at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital. The project, funded in part by the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation with support of the Lady Jackets, will provide a place of comfort and necessary amenities for families with children being cared for at the hospital.
Debbie Clark, wife of Jackets goaltending coach Ian Clark, was in attendance at the unveiling. Debbie has been a big part of the Jackets' contribution to the project, and she has plans to continue volunteering there.
She intimately understands the need for a space like the Ronald McDonald Family Room.
"My first born spent too much time in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit, (NICU)," Debbie said. "If we had a space where we could go just to get away and decompress a little bit, it would have been amazing. I am so thankful to be a part of this and offer that support and respite to families that are going through such a tough time."
According to Brian Jepson, Riverside's president, the family room hopes to serve over 800 families in the coming year, particularly the families of children in the NICU, who often have an average hospital stay of 19 days. The room includes a kitchen and dining area, a work space with complimentary Wi-Fi, sections for families to gather and children to play, and complimentary laundry and shower services.
The Family Room is open 9 a.m. - 9 p.m. daily. It is operated by the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio and is fully staffed by volunteers.
"It's very taxing on families (to have a child in the hospital)," Jepson said. "They want to be here, they want to be close to their baby, but at the same time they have a lot of things they need to do to keep their life going. (We are about) providing great care for our patients, but even thinking beyond our patients and providing very compassionate care to the whole family."
The Ronald McDonald Family Room came to fruition after the idea first surfaced almost four years ago. Providing this service completes the three legs of the Ronald McDonald House Charities along with the Care Mobile Unit and the Ronald McDonald House located by Nationwide Children's Hospital.
As the concept came closer to realization, the Blue Jackets Foundation was one of the community partners that stepped up. Building on a long-standing relationship with Ronald McDonald Charities, the Lady Jackets presented a gift of $100,000 earlier in the year during a volunteer event at the Ronald McDonald House. After that, members of the organization got to work helping get the family room ready for use.
"I think this is a great example of the purpose and the mission of our Foundation," said Kathryn Dobbs, vice president, community relations and executive director of the Blue Jackets Foundation. "It's an opportunity to serve children and families here in our community and to do so with two incredible partners, the Ronald McDonald House and OhioHealth. When you have an opportunity to work on a project like that and to serve as many families as they will in this capacity, we can't help but be excited."
As Central Ohio joins the network of 216 Family Rooms throughout the country, the hope is that families will have more support, both emotional and logistical, as they deal with a child's illness.
"It's a historic day for us," said Tammy Roberts Myers, President of the Board of Directors for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. "(The Family Room) is a tremendous collaboration of community leaders who have come together to embrace the families who have hospitalized children in our town.
"We think that this Family Room will be a wonderful place to de-stress and find some comforts from home. It will provide much needed respite to families that are going through a very vulnerable time in their lives."