Ontario grant creates buzz at Ronald McDonald House

Jordan was diagnosed with leukemia at 18 months of age.

While he was undergoing treatment in Toronto, his family stayed at Ronald McDonald House to be by his side. His stay lasted two months. Since then, Jordan and his family have returned to the house, sometimes staying close to a year at a time

“His reaction when I tell him we’re going to Toronto always makes me smile. He says, ‘Yeah, Mommy, we’re going home,'” Jordan’s mother Shannon said.

Toronto’s Ronald McDonald House has been home to many families like Jordan’s, allowing out-of-town families with seriously ill children a place to stay while they receive treatment at Toronto Sick Kids Hospital.

Last Sunday, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care George Smitherman announced the Ontario government would be giving a capital grant of $9 million towards building a new Ronald McDonald House in the city.

Jane Marco, the executive director of Toronto’s Ronald McDonald House, is thankful for the government’s donation.

“The medical field has long recognized the value of keeping children together with their families during treatment, giving them strength they need to fight for their lives,” Marco said.

The current house can host up to 28 families at a time. The new home, a $28.5 million project, will be able to host 80 families.

‘It makes a world of difference when families can stay together’

Judy MacGowan, Ronald McDonald House’s director of business development, says that the staff and guests at the house have been buzzing ever since they heard news of the grant.

“It makes a world of difference when the families can stay together and that is what the house is all about,” MacGowan said.

There is a waiting list for the current house. According to MacGowan, there are more families on the waiting list than guests in it. Building a new home will mean that families will no longer have to wait.

The house provides families with an easy and affordable way to stay with their children during their treatment at the hospital. The cost of accommodating a family for one night is about $150, but the families are only asked to pay $15. The families are also treated to home-cooked dinners, craft time and a fully accredited private school for the children.

“There are a variety of volunteer positions,” MacGowan said. “You never know what your day is going to be; it unfolds wonderful surprises. I am here because I believe so much in our families and we need to be here for them.”

MacGowan has been working at the house for seven years because she has felt fortunate to work for a charity such as the Ronald McDonald House. She encourages others to volunteer and donate, so that they can complete and open the new house by 2010.

“We will be going to the entire community to ask for their support of this, we will go to individuals, corporations, community groups, foundations and the government to support the project. It will take the entire community to reach our goal,” McGowan said.