As I look back over the past year, I am struck by just how many lives have been touched by the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House. We had a record number of family stays – 2,787 in total – between our two Houses in 2011. Nearly two hundred campers joined us for our very special twenty-fifth year of Ronald McDonald Camp. In addition, almost every family with a patient receiving care on the Oncology or Cardiology floors at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia found respite in our Ronald McDonald Family Rooms. These programs and the services they offer made very challenging times easier to bear for all of the families who spent a night at our Houses, sent a child to camp for the first time, or took a much-needed break away from their hospital room.
However, in listening to these families, it is clear that what we offer goes far beyond meeting basic needs – as critically important as they are. For these families, our Houses are more than somewhere to sleep. Our Camp is more than just a place to swim and do arts and crafts. Our Family Rooms are more than a spot to get a cup of coffee.
As mother Rosalyn Mero explains, the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House is a place where families no longer have to feel alone. Rosalyn stayed at the House while her 18-month-old son Santi received radiation treatment for cancer. (Click here to read her full story.) She states, “Sometimes you think you are the only one going through this and at the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House you realize that you are not. One of the greatest things here is that I have met so many people and we all know what we are going through. It is just a relief to know that there is somebody else like you.”
When they walk through our doors, families enter a supportive community where others understand what it is like to have – or to be – a child with a serious illness. At our two Houses, that means moms and dads from all around the world can sit together in the kitchen over a home-cooked meal and share their hopes and fears with other parents who know just how hard things can be.
At Camp, that means children with cancer can have a week where no one looks twice because they’ve lost their hair or are in a wheelchair, and can meet fellow campers who know how it feels to spend days undergoing harsh tests and treatments when all of the other kids are at school or outside playing. It also means siblings have the chance to make friends who have also worried about a sick brother or sister.
And in the Family Rooms, that means families who spend hour after hour isolated in hospital rooms can gain strength from the shared stories of other parents who are facing the same levels of stress and uncertainty.
I want to share some quotes with you from other families that illustrate just how important this sense of community is:
“I think you feel a certain rapport with everyone here because they are in a similar situation. You don’t feel like you are in a hotel with strangers where you have nothing in common. Here you can talk to people and you know what everyone is going through. You really couldn’t survive in just a hotel.”
“Once you start talking to other people, even if they aren’t going through the same situation, they are still going through something. You can still relate to each other. You go to dinner and talk to each other. It makes it a lot easier.”
“People at camp were just like me and that comforted me. No one cared if you were sick.”
You may have noticed we updated our mission statement in 2011. Our new statement reads: The Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House supports families of seriously ill children by creating a community of comfort and hope. We feel that this new statement truly gets to the core of why we exist and the difference we are making in the lives of so many families, based on the words of the families themselves.
We are only able to foster this sense of community reflected in this new statement and so deeply appreciated by our families because of the support of our dedicated friends like you. Thank you to everyone who helped the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House fulfill our mission in 2011 for so many families. Your unwavering support inspires all of us to continue to expand our impact and make an even greater difference in 2012.