In 1986 the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Illinois officially opened its doors as a way for family members to stay close to their children in the hospital. Program Director Katie Alsup explained how she first got involved with the charity house.
“I actually stayed at the house for 9 months, I had a baby born at 23 weeks so we were in the queue for 9 months and we stayed at the Ronald McDonald the entire time cause we lived far enough away to utilize their services and so once we got discharged and got home I thought it was important to give back to a charity that helped us in a crucial time,” Alsup said.
Katie has a great deal of responsibilities as Program Director of the Ronald McDonald House.
“I do all of the overseeing of the house, so if things need fixed, I am the liaison between the hospital and the house so I talk with Nikki from pediatrics on a regular basis to make sure everybody’s visiting their children. I also go through the referral process so any applications for the family to come in and stay Im the one who reviews those, does background checks for the families, and tells them to come in. I'm also in charge of the volunteers,” Alsup said.
The Charity House’s primary purpose is to keep families close their kids in the hospital, but they provide other services as well.
“The Ronald McDonald House Charities provides housing for families to stay close to their kids up to the age of 22. Within the house they provide free meals, lodging is free, so it's a free service, and they also do what's called a happy wheels cart, so they take a cart full of toys and things that parents may need over on the hospital floor so they travel and they hand things out, just another way to provide a service,” Alsup said.
The help the Ronald McDonald Houses provide is immeasurable for many families.
“Just to have that monetary burden lifted, because there's no salary needed if you're staying there you can stay if you have a million dollars or if you have 2 pennies in your pocket, it doesn't matter for that. The main purpose is to keep you close,” Alsup said.
There are Ronald McDonald Houses located in various far-flung locations, offering the same kind of help.
“There are over 350 Ronald McDonald Houses worldwide, so there’s one in Russia in Moscow, one in China, all over the place and they’re continuing to grow,” Alsup said.
Alsup said the foundation began in Philadelphia.
“There was a Philadelphia Eagles player that had a sick child in 1977 and when he was going to the hospital these parents were sleeping in the waiting rooms and he said there had to be a better way for this to happen, to keep parents closer to their kids, so he partnered with the Mcdonalds in Philadelphia which is how that started,” Alsup said.
Katie said there may be a bit of a misunderstanding when it comes to how the charity organization is funded.
“The McDonald’s corporation does not fund the houses, so there’s the penny for happy meals that goes to us, things like that. Most people think when its Ronald McDonald that the restaurant's fund the house when that’s not the case. We get no funding from the state or from government its all donation based,” Alsup said.
And with those private donations, the Ronald McDonald Charity Houses are able to help families in their greatest time of need.