Building on success

Ronald McDonald House needs your help to grow

If you had a seriously sick child in the hospital for any length of time, where would you stay?


And how long could you afford it?

Hopefully you’ll never have to think about those things. But it’s sad that families with sick kids do.

That’s where the Ronald McDonald House comes in.

It provides a home – literally, a home – for the families of hospitalized children, at nominal or no cost. It takes a mom or a dad or both who are carrying the weight of the world – and lifts the heavy burden of everyday living off their shoulders.

Short of going to medical school and learning how to be a pediatric neurosurgeon or cardiovascular surgeon, it’s the best way to help a family in medical crisis. And helping doesn’t get much better than that.

Augusta’s Ronald McDonald House helped 631 families in 2012 – as President and CEO Betts Murdison puts it, with a hug, coffee and a bed. Others in the community pitch in to help feed the families too.

But there are several problems with the house at 938 Greene St., which opened in 1984.

The biggest is that it’s too small. Even with 11 bedrooms, the house has to turn away families every night. In 2012, they had to turn away 284 families.

“We’d be serving a lot more, believe me,” Murdison says. “It’s not unusual to have three or four (families) on the waiting list.”

How big is the burden on families? If they get into the house, the average stay is five nights. That means some families spend much more. How many family budgets could withstand hotel rooms for that long – on top of medical bills?

In addition, the house is a confusing, twisting, turning one-and-a-half miles from the hospital, making it difficult for groggy parents to respond quickly to a middle-of-the-night distress call.

And, oh by the way, the house is not handicap-accessible.

Help is on the way – thanks to the many good people in the Augusta region.

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Augusta is raising $5.8 million to build a roomier, accessible house at 983 St. Sebastian Way, right on the campus of the Children’s Hospital of Georgia. Groundbreaking is this Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the Telemedicine building just 150 yards from Children’s Hospital of Georgia. The public is welcome.

The new house will sport all of 23 bedrooms and baths, and will be accessible for those with disabilities. It will comfort hundreds more families every year at their most trying time.

What a blessing.

The Ronald McDonald House folks have done a superb job of building a case for their campaign, and have even tried making giving fun: Pro golfer and Augustan Charles Howell III has lent his name – and his golfing reputation – to “Birdies Fore the House,” a pledge people can make for every birdie he makes on tour this year.

A similar arrangement has been made with the generous support of Jeff Hadden of Maness Racing – a car racer who has made the house his charity of choice with his “Laps For the House” pledge program.

Although local McDonald’s owners have generously pledged $1 million toward the new house, most folks may not realize that Ronald McDonald Houses are largely on their own for funding. That’s true in this capital campaign as well. These families need our help.

They’ve raised $4.2 million of the $5.8 million goal. They need our help getting over the top.

It’s helping ourselves, too. By helping support some of the most sympathetic families who come here for lifesaving medical care for their children, we’re helping support one of this area’s top economic engines.

But really, do we need another reason besides the kids?



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