For nearly 40 years, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northwest Ohio has been “keeping families close” with children hospitalized in the Toledo area.
Located adjacent to ProMedica Russell J. Ebeid Children’s Hospital, RMHC provides lodging, meals and a comfortable home away from home for families of children receiving care at any area medical facility. The charity’s 38,000 square-foot facility has 28 bedrooms and numerous common areas to accommodate overnight guests and daytime visitors– a respite for families dealing with the stress, fear and anxiety of caring for a sick child.
There is no charge for families to stay at the house, though some choose to “pay it forward” with a donation to cover the next family’s stay. “We’re 100 percent funded by donations,” notes Chad Bringman, RMHC executive director, adding, “There is no other funding source for the Ronald McDonald House here in Toledo.”
The house hosts hundreds of overnight guests annually, and its doors remained open throughout the pandemic. When occupancy limits were reduced to allow for social distancing, RMHC arranged for some families to stay at local hotels. Volunteers were sent home, leaving operation of the house to a skeleton crew of staff members. “It really put a lot of burden on those folks,” Bringman says of the reduced staff. “They did just an incredible job managing it for months.”
Local restaurants shared food and donors wrote checks to cover the cost of catering when volunteers were unable to prepare meals at the House. “The community was just incredibly awesome to us through that period of time,” Bringman adds. “We never had to worry about where those funds were going to come from if we had to order food in.”
Mission is access to healthcare
With restrictions lifted, RMHC has gradually opened its rooms and started welcoming smaller volunteer groups back to prepare meals for the families. It recently reopened its hospitality suite at ProMedica Russell J. Ebeid Children’s Hospital, where families can find refreshments, support and information about services offered by RMHC. Bringman says the organization will also soon launch the Happy Wheels Cart program, which he describes as a “hospitality suite on wheels” offering similar services. The operation of the house itself is not the mission of RMHC, Bringman notes. ”It’s about access to healthcare and our ability to help folks that need it,” he explains.
A mobile clinic for Toledo
A new initiative in the works, Care Mobile, would bring medical care directly to children in their own neighborhoods. Care Mobile vehicles already operate in about 35 cities in the United States. Pending approval of a grant submitted to the global office of RMHC, Bringman hopes to begin to operate the mobile clinic for Toledo soon so it can launch later this year. The global office would fund construction of the vehicle, at a cost of about $500,000.
Limited access to healthcare plays a role in the high infant mortality rate that exists in Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan, Bringman explained. Care Mobile will help connect children with the healthcare system at a young age, with a particular focus on immunizations and wellness checks for children under three. The impact of such early interventions can make a huge difference in a child’s life.
Bringman encourages those interested in supporting Care Mobile and other programs of RMHC of Northwest Ohio to visit the organization’s website at rmhctoledo.org to make a donation or find current volunteer opportunities and wish lists.