Ronald McDonald House Galveston Celebrating 25 Years
It started as a means to help families whose children were patients at the University of Texas Medical Branch and Shriners Burn Center. Twenty-five years later, the Ronald McDonald House Galveston has become a staple for thousands of patients and families from around the world.
The Ronald McDonald House Galveston is a home-away-from-home for patients 18 and under and their families who travel to the Galveston medical center for health care. With Shriners Burn Center being a premiere facility that attracts patients from around the world, the House is a place where families can stay while children return for extended medical care.
Some stay a few days, others for months. Some have stayed twice, others more than 100 times.
The House is a special “home that love built” for families to be together so their children can heal and become healthy and happy, said Margie Chavarria, executive director of the Ronald McDonald House.
The idea for the house came after noticing that families with limited means were sleeping in their cars at a local grocery store parking lot while their children required care at the medical center complex.
Concerned community volunteers spearheaded the idea of building a Ronald McDonald House and raised $2 million. Twenty-five years later those same volunteers remain active with the House and are set to celebrate the House’s 25th Anniversary with a Gala on May 3.
“We knew there was a need for a place like the Ronald McDonald House in Galveston,” said Susanne Sullivan, one of the volunteers who helped raise funds for the home build. “We raised the necessary funds, gave a presentation on why we needed a House and were given approval. We then looked at each other and said now what?”
What has transpired is 25 years of a House centered on community giving and involvement. Sullivan and BJ Herz both remain actively involved with the House.
“What we found is that our community is a very giving community,” Herz said. “The House remains a focal point for Galveston. I don’t know of many who have only volunteered once. They find that if you come to the House and see first-hand the impact you are having on these families, you just want to give more. We are reminded how fortunate we are to have healthy children and a vibrant medical center in our backyard.”
Added Sullivan, “After visiting the families who stay at the House, we see these vibrant children who have such a positive outlook on life despite having a lifetime of surgeries ahead of them. It makes us realize how grateful we all should be for our healthy children and grandchildren.”
Many of the families who have called the Ronald McDonald House home have children who have been severely burned or are the parents of babies who are born prematurely and require months, if not years, of hospital care.
While the normal gestation period for a child is 40 weeks, many of the preemies at UTMB arrived at 27 weeks, weigh less than two pounds and face physical difficulties that require a stay in the hospital’s neo-natal intensive care unit.
“Mommies stay with us so they can be close to the hospital and within walking distance of visits with their newborns,” Chavarria said.
The parents of preemie babies find solace in the support from the House staff as well as other residents.
The Ronald McDonald House Galveston board of directors invites the public to help celebrate at the House’s 25th Anniversary Gala on May 3 at Moody Gardens. For more information about the black tie evening, please contact the House at 409-762-8770 or www.rmgh.org or Ruth Rendon at 409-370-3211.
25 Facts about the Ronald McDonald House
1. The House opened on May 5, 1989
2. The House was 19,428-square-feet when opened and after an expansion in 2008, the House now is 32,668-square-feet.
3. The House has 20 bedrooms.
4. The House has a capacity for 80 residents per night.
5. The House served 677 families in 2013 for a total of 5,398 nights.
6. Hurricane Ike brought surge feet of water into the House destroying years of records and photos.
7. Residents served in 2013 were from seven different countries, six different states and 39 different counties.
8. The oldest Ronald McDonald House Galveston volunteer is 90 years old.
9. The youngest Ronald McDonald House Galveston volunteer is 13 years old.
10. The majority of the families who stay at the Ronald McDonald House are the parents of preemie babies with an average birth rate of 1 to 2 pounds.
11. Many of the volunteers on today’s Ronald McDonald House board of directors have served for 25 years.
12. Ronald McDonald House Galveston is one of 16 Houses in Texas.
13. Margie Chavarria is the long-standing executive director of the Ronald McDonald House Galveston.
14. Area volunteer organizations as well as employee groups from various companies routinely prepare meals for the House residents.
15. The Ronald McDonald House Galveston provides a fully stocked pantry for all residents to use.
16. A small classroom at the Ronald McDonald House Galveston has been expanded into a larger area to accommodate a teacher and an aide. For many residents, the classroom is the only form of schooling.
17. The Ronald McDonald House Galveston is equipped with indoor play spaces since young burn patients cannot play outside.
18. The Ronald McDonald House Galveston is independently owned and operated.
19. Powdered detergent that is provided to the residents is pre-packaged in small baggies. Ask us why?
20. Members of the board of directors are known to horde shampoo, conditioner and other toiletries while on personal trips in order to donate them to the House.
21. The Ronald McDonald House Galveston has been blessed with corporate partners who have donated mattresses, furniture and soft drinks among other things throughout the years.
22. It costs about $800,000 a year to run the Ronald McDonald House Galveston.
23. The Ronald McDonald House Galveston is full wonderful memories.
24. Members of the board of directors joke that the Ronald McDonald House is like Hotel California “you can never leave” because you don’t want to. Once you experience the love inside the House, you are hooked.
25. The Board of Directors of the Ronald McDonald House Galveston invites you to celebrate the House’s 25th Anniversary on May 3, 2014.
Types of families who have stayed at the House?
Preemie Families of:
Chrislynn Elizabeth Duhon Courtier born at 27 weeks weighing a 1 lb., 13 oz.
ReNisha Blount born at 34 weeks weighing 3 lbs., 10 oz.
Brooklyn Rose Smith born at 27 weeks weighing 1 lb., 15 oz.
Twins Dylan Wayne Cooper and Bryant Joseph Crooper who were born at 25 weeks each weighing 1 lb., 12 oz.
Mercedes Alonso born at 28 weeks weighing 1 lb., 13 oz.
The smallest of the smallest
Lupita Garcia was no bigger than a Beanie Baby she was born weighing 14 oz. – just two ounces more than a canned soft drink. She was given a five percent chance of survival. During the six months she was a patient in the neo-natal intensive care unit, her parents relied on the Ronald McDonald House. After 12 years of marriage and failed pregnancies, Lolita was her parents’ little miracle. When she left the hospital, she weighed a whopping 5 lbs., 4 oz.
Johnnie Quinn of Tennessee was three years old when he suffered burns over 95 percent of his body. Doctors in Memphis did not give the family much hope that little Johnnie would survive. His family, however, did not lose faith and instead brought Johnnie to Shriners Hospital for Children – a leading pediatric burn center at UTMB, where he received free care.
During his seven-month hospital stay, Johnnie’s father, grandmother and his nine siblings visited – all stayed at the Ronald McDonald House. His mother spent the seven months in Galveston by Johnnie’s side.
Over a two-year period, Johnnie underwent 40 surgeries and is facing countless surgeries more. The Quinn family is one of the families that the Ronald McDonald House continues to host.
Ashley Lopez suffered from kidney failure since age five and endured daily 10-hour dialysis treatment. She waited three years before receiving a kidney transplant. During her treatment, Ashley and her mother depended on the care and support of the Ronald McDonald House staff during Ashley’s trying time.
Damari was 13 when the teen when a high-tension wire fell, knocking her and an aunt to the ground in her native country of Belize. Her aunt did not survive and Damari suffered massive injuries. Through the Burn Victims’ Foundation, Damari’s family brought to Shriners Hospital by private plane to tend to her injuries. She endured surgeries to amputate a leg and finger which was followed with physical therapy. When she was released from the hospital, Damari stayed at the Ronald McDonald House.
Moinan Mundoyo was living in rural Kenya when she fell into a cooking fire at age four. She arrived for care at Shriners via London. For nearly two years, Moinan was hospitalized, underwent surgeries and skin grafts. She continues to return to Galveston, Shriners and the Ronald McDonald House for further surgeries.
Esmeralda and Francisco Mendiola from Vera Cruz suffered severe burns and were brought to Shriner’s for treatment. Esmeralda was only five months and her brother, 2, when a ruptured gas line sent their aunt’s home into an inferno. Since their initial visit, the two have returned for continuing treatment. With each hospital treatment, the family stays at the Ronald McDonald House.
“It is a joy for us at the Ronald McDonald House to watch the progress these courageous children have made,” Chavarria said.