For 37 years, the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) of Maryland has ensured more than 40,000 families with sick children are able to be together and close to the care they need.
In 2019, a brand new location opened in East Baltimore, which more than doubles the previous capacity.
Officials say that it is all made possible in part through the spare change collected from generous customer donations in McDonald’s restaurants across the United States. In 2018, local McDonald’s owner operators and customers donated nearly $365,000 to RMHC of Maryland, covering the cost of 1,970 nights stay.
The Marsh family of Colonial Beach, Virginia, counts among the people who have benefited from the RMHC in Baltimore. Their son, Ryder, now 10 suffered a fetal stroke which caused cerebral palsy and Stage 2 kidney disease requiring specialty care at a local hospital.
Ryder and his mother, Brandy say their stay at the Baltimore location has made a daunting challenge much more tolerable.
“[Initially], we stayed there for six weeks while Ryder was in a therapy program at the Kennedy Krieger Institute,” Brandy Marsh said. “It was amazing. It has really become a home away from home. It allowed us to be right down the street from the hospital.”
Ryder called the three-story RMHC his “home away from home.”
“Everyone is always so nice. You can feel comfortable and you are always relaxed and I didn’t think it would be that way at first. But, it’s not like you go to a hotel and you get in and there is no one to talk to. There’s so much to do,” Ryder said.
As the only Ronald McDonald House in the state of Maryland, more than 40,000 families have stayed at the Baltimore location since it first opened in 1982. Now, the house has been transformed into a 60,000 square foot, more-accessible House in the Jonestown neighborhood, which more than doubles the capacity to serve families who arrive in search of hope and care.
Officials say the new facility provides much more than a roof over families’ heads. It offers spaces and vital resources so families can focus on the health and well being of their children while keeping families close.
Among the features of the new House are 54 family guest rooms, including nine suites designed for bone marrow and transplant patients and 45 standard guest rooms.
There is a meditation room for solitude and respite; a teen and young adult room; student classroom space and family business center with computers, printers, and Internet accessibility; an outdoor playground; private kitchen; and a “magic room” for kids. RMHC officials have emphasized that generous donations have made all of it possible.
However, they note that as we have become a more cashless society, it has impacted giving.
In 2018, there was a 15 percent drop in in-restaurant coin contributions, which is why McDonald’s has launched “Round-Up for RMHC” technology across restaurants nationwide to make it easier for customers in Baltimore to donate by letting them round up their order to the nearest dollar and create change without a single coin.
McDonald’s also introduced a “Menu of Moments” to give customers context on how each donation benefits RMHC families. Ryder was featured in video celebrating the new East Baltimore location.
“There’s a lot of negative parts to our story, a lot of unknown,” Marsh stated. “But, anytime we have to go to Baltimore, we get to dance around this kind of stuff that overrides the scariness of it because of the Ronald McDonald House.”