A Home Away From Home

Published on December 19th, 2011 by Diana Duren.

The Monroe Carell Jr.Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt is the community’s hospital. From inception to completion, the community far and wide has always supported the hospital as well as patients and families.

When weary families have needed a place to sleep, get a home-cooked meal or a place
to heal, the community has been there.

For 20 years, that’s what the Nashville Ronald McDonald House, a home-away-from-home, has done: offer stability and resources for families of children being cared for at Children’s Hospital.

The 32-bedroom house sits on Fairfax Avenue nestled among a mostly residential neighborhood, a couple blocks away from Children’s Hospital.

“They are an important partner in caring for a family,” said Janet Cross, director of Patient and Family-Centered Care and member of the House’s Board of Directors. “The Ronald McDonald House staff is unique and nurturing. They know their work and do their work well. They are able to provide a sense of family.”

Since the house opened July 13, 1991, initially with 16 bedrooms, more than 11,300 families from all over the United States and several foreign countries have benefited from the services. The house has grown to 32 bedrooms, and there are seven full-time staff and more than 200 volunteers – the backbone of the organization. John Lukens, M.D., former head of the Pediatric Oncology Department, was the visionary behind bringing a Ronald McDonald House to Nashville. He died in 2010.

In 2004, when the freestanding Children’s Hospital opened, the house also opened a Family Room within the hospital to offer snacks, drinks and respite.

“A home away from home” is the house’s motto, and it’s just that, only on a larger scale. The Nashville house has two kitchens, eight dishwashers, 10 washers and 10 dryers, a living room, a library, two dining rooms, two playrooms and several common areas.

“Our mission is to keep the family together,” said Elizabeth Piercy, executive director of the house. “By keeping families together, they are able to better care for the child. When you’re sick you want your mom or dad. It provides families with a place to rest after a long day or night at the hospital and gives families a chance to revitalize.”

The house operates at full-capacity at all times, with a waiting list of families who are referred by a hospital social worker.

“As Children’s Hospital continues to grow as a resource in our community, we need to continue to embrace them because we couldn’t provide the level of care that we do,” said Cross. “I don’t know how we would do it without them.”

If families are able, they can pay a $15 per night donation, but no family is turned away based on ability to pay. The average family stay is 28 days. Funding from community donors and special events helps the house run.

– Christina Echegaray

To learn more about the Ronald McDonald House, visit www.rmhcnashville.com