As you may know, RMHC Alberta supports families seeking vital medical treatment for their seriously ill or injured child. Over one thousand Alberta families every year stay at one of the province’s Ronald McDonald Houses. Some stays last up to a few nights; some as long as several weeks or months at a time.
Each Ronald McDonald House has private family suites for families to rest, while the houses have open kitchens where families can sit down and share experiences over a homemade meal. The sense of community enables families to rely on each other and shore up strength when they need it the most. Learn more about Alberta’s Ronald McDonald Houses and donate at rmhcalberta.org
Two off-site suites in the nearby Aria building have welcomed RMHC Alberta with a program that will serve additional families in 2021. The new pilot partnership specifically caters for Alberta families less suited to communal living in the Ronald McDonald House when their child is receiving medical care.
These suites were made possible by a partnership with Graham Group and Gracorp Properties and are located across the street from our special neighbours: Alberta Children’s Hospital, and adjacent to the Ronald McDonald House.
Aria’s self-contained, one-bedroom apartment suites are designated for RMHC Alberta families who will have an above-average length of stay, and/or whose children are immunocompromised, making communal living in the Ronald McDonald House challenging.
“When we heard RMHC in Calgary, located a block away from Aria, needed additional space for a few families that couldn’t safely stay in their communal environment, we were eager to help,” says Novy Cheema, Managing Director of Real Estate at Gracorp Properties.
“With a Save-on-Foods grocery store on the main floor and located across the street from the Alberta Children’s Hospital, staying in a suite at Aria is an ideal set up for RMHC families to have access to everything they need and peace of mind while they care for their child who is undergoing treatment. We are honoured to help the RMHC families and look forward to continuing this partnership for years to come.”
Those families staying at Aria have full access to the programs and services offered at the nearby Ronald McDonald House.
RMHC Alberta CEO Jason Evanson, says “We are so pleased to have the Aria suites available, only 400 metres away from the Ronald McDonald House, allowing us to serve more families. All of us at RMHC Alberta are truly grateful to Gracorp for their hospitality and for enabling this pilot project.”
When Frankie Butler was six months old, she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer. After staying in the ICU at Frankie’s bedside for the first initial days, her parents Amanda and Chris were referred to the Ronald McDonald House.
“We were totalled, absolutely wrecked – we were so exhausted, and the Ronald McDonald House was so lovely and welcoming,” Amanda says.
When it came time for Frankie’s high-dose chemotherapy to begin in January 2021, Amanda and Chris were recommended for the new pilot project.
“We were shown the space and completely blown away,” Amanda says. “It was so lovely to have that natural light, that beautiful modern space, and during COVID- 19 a safe, private place just for us – it’s a situation that no one ever wants to be in, but this spot was just so perfect.”
Amanda and Chris would take turns sleeping at the hospital with Frankie, and then switching off with each other to sleep in their Aria suite.
“We’d flop back and forth from Aria to the hospital – and if we were too tired to make food, there was still that support and connection to the Ronald McDonald House so close by,” she adds.
Amanda explains that there was about one week out of each month that Frankie would be out of the hospital, and to have that non-communal space available with an immunocompromised baby was ideal.
“We would never want anyone to actually understand what we’re going through – but I don’t think I can describe as a parent how helpful it was to have this little piece of support for us,” Amanda explains. “It helped a lot, and not just because it was a place to sleep, but because it’s a beautiful place – Aria allowed us to take care of ourselves so we could take care of Frankie better.”
For Amanda and Chris, the Aria suite gave them a quality of life that can’t be overstated.
“When you’re in this position you need convenience because you’re just so tired and all the little things are what are the most exhausting,” she says.
“After a long day at the hospital, going down to the gym to do a quick run on the treadmill, or popping into Save-On-Foods to get some fresh fruit, or heading over to the Ronald McDonald House for a prepared meal – kept us happier and healthier for our daughter.”
For the Butlers and families like them, collaboration amongst neighbouring organizations in University District had a profound impact on their life. It is an example of what University District stands for: people, connection and community. By working together, our neighbourhood can grow and thrive in the most amazing ways.
It’s time to lace up if you want to help families like the Butlers who need to stay at a Ronald McDonald House.
From July 19-24, RMHC Alberta is hosting its second-annual provincial walk/run, Hustle for the House! Walk, run, bike, or stroll in support of RMHC Alberta families in your community. Registration is $35 for adults, $20 for youth, and $10 for your four-legged furry friend!
If you raise over $100, you’ll receive a pair of iconic red and white striped socks! Go to rmhcalberta.org/events to register or for more information.
University District thanks Ronald McDonald House, Aria and Graham teams and the families involved in this heartwarming initiative for sharing their stories. Do you have any ideas for us to share? Post your thoughts on University District on Facebook, @udistrictyyc_ on Instagram or Twitter. And let’s stay connected through community goodness!
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