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Ronald McDonald House doing part to help families

August 15, 2012

Shelley Cunningham, executive director of Ronald McDonald House Charities in Amarillo, was the featured speaker at the Borger Rotary Club Wednesday. PHOTO BY MICHELLE BERRY

The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Amarillo are doing their part to help provide much-needed services to people throughout the panhandle of Texas and beyond.
Shelley Cunningham, who is the executive director of Ronald McDonald House, said she has been in the position since June of this year, and is always learning something new. She was the featured speaker at the Borger Rotary Club meeting on Tuesday.
The main part of Ronald McDonald House would be the house itself in Amarillo, she said. The house has 13 bedrooms and is right in the Amarillo medical district. Families from outlying communities (55 miles or further) can come when they have a child in the hospital and can stay at the house.
Community areas include a living room, kitchen, library, play nooks, two laundry rooms, a great room, a dining room, an interior courtyard, and outdoor patios.
Cunningham said if there is a family who has a child with a doctor’s appointment in Amarillo, his or her physician can call the house and the family can come and spend the night in the house before or after the appointment depending on when the appointment is scheduled.
She said the house asks families that come and stay to make a $15 donation if possible, but they never turn anyone away if they are not able to pay. They can come and stay at the house no matter what.
There are families that may only come and stay for one or two nights, but there are scenarios, such as high-risk pregnancies, where a woman might come and stay at the house for four or six weeks while she’s pregnant and around the time the child is born.
Cunningham said if someone tried to stay in a hotel for that long, the cost would add up quickly. She said the house is a wonderful way to help families in need.
“The Ronald McDonald House is a home away from home,” she said. She said that many people come to consider it as such while they are there.
On Tuesday morning, Cunningham said she observed three different families using the kitchen at the Ronald McDonald House to cook food and their children were playing together. She said when families have a child with a serious health condition, it is comforting for them to know there are others there going through the same thing and they can bond with others and make friends.
She said the staff is incredible, because they can share stories with the families who are there about those who have been there in the past, which can be an encouragement to them.
Another program associated with the Ronald McDonald House is a “family room” that has been set up at Northwest Texas Hospital. Any family who has a child birth through 21 in the hospital at NWTH can come to this room and have refreshments, take showers, or do laundry.
The family room includes a quiet room, kitchen area, TV areas, and laundry and shower facilities. It is staffed by volunteers and has recorded more than 218,000 visits since its opening.
If a family member doesn’t want to be far from their child at any given time, this particular room is a great place for him or her to go and just rest and relax, Cunningham said.
The last program the Ronald McDonald House Charities is involved in is the delivering of toys. Toys are delivered to every child at Northwest Texas Hospital and BSA Hospital.
“Every Tuesday, we take a book to every child birth to 21 who is in the hospital, and every Thursday we take a toy,” Cunningham said. “That is something that communities like yours have been so incredibly generous to donate books and toys so that we can go in the room, visit with the parents, visit with the child, and give them a book or toy.”
She said this is way the Ronald McDonald House can show people going through such situations that there are people in the Texas Panhandle that really do care.
The Ronald McDonald House recycles tabs from aluminum cans. Every week, Doppler Dave Oliver of NewsChannel10 collects all of the pop tabs from the house on Wednesday and takes them to the recycler. The house gets some money from the pop tabs.
Pop tabs can be collected in a baggie or a milk carton, or in one of the Ronald McDonald House’s “tab houses.” Cunningham said this is an easy and lightweight way that people can contribute. Those in Borger who would like to donate pop tabs can drop them off at McDonald’s in Borger and they will get to the proper location.
Every family that comes and stays at the house that has a baby in the hospital receives a special packet. Cunningham said there is a great group of volunteers from all over the panhandle that quilt quilts and knit beanie caps and booties. The packet the families receive has a quilt, a receiving blanket, a Ronald McDonald House t-shirt, and a knitted cap and booties to take home with them.
Cunningham said she has lived in the panhandle her entire life, and has met some of the nicest people in the world. However, she said “the extra nice” people she has met are at the Ronald McDonald House.
“People are so generous, and we appreciate everything your community does to help the Ronald McDonald House,” she said.
The Ronald McDonald House is located at 1501 Streit Drive in Amarillo. For more information, call 358-8177 or visit the web site rmhcofamarillo.org.

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