Every night, the 18 bedrooms at Sacramento’s Ronald McDonald House are filled to capacity by families with a child being treated at UC Davis Medical Center, Shriners Hospitals for Children or other area medical centers.
“Last year, we were able to serve 624 families but had to turn away 1,300 for lack of space,” said Stacey Hodge, director of community relations for Ronald McDonald House Charities Northern California.
Many of the families that are turned away receive discounts at local hotels until a room opens up at the McDonald house.
To meet the constant demand, the charity broke ground Thursday on a planned 20-bedroom expansion at its site on 49th Street, on the UC Davis Medical Center campus. The 18,000-square-foot expansion will take about a year to build, Hodge said. It will include a kitchen and dining area, indoor playroom and a fitness center, designed by Sacramento-based Stafford King Wiese Architects.
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With furnishings and five years of operating expenses, it’s expected to cost about $6 million, she said.
Families at the Ronald McDonald House stay for an average of 10 days, Hodge said. Many are repeat guests whose children are being treated for burns or cancer. They share communal kitchens, dining rooms and play areas.
It’s intended as a restful atmosphere for families and “a refuge from the hospital setting,” according to the charity’s website. Families can stay for free or a $25-a-day donation, depending on their financial situation. The length of stay ranges from one night to several months, depending on the child’s illness and treatment.
Sacramento’s expansion project was made possible by several years of local fundraising, Hodge said. The annual Sacramento Dream House Raffle, which offered chances to win a luxurious home at $150 a ticket, brought in nearly $3 million over several years, she said.
Fundraising can be tough for the Ronald McDonald Houses because many people assume they are fully funded by McDonald’s Corp., which runs the global fast-food chain. There are dozens of Ronald McDonald Houses worldwide, including 11 in California.
“(McDonald’s) is very generous, and we’re their charity of choice,” Hodge said, but the company funds only about 16 percent of the financial needs of each Ronald McDonald house.
“Fifteen cents of every McFlurry comes to us,” Hodge said.