When Charlestown resident and Director Ellen Simmons first began her leadership of the Ronald McDonald House on Boston Harbor, she knew it was going to be both challenging and rewarding.
Challenges like: dealing with the misperception that McDonald’s is their exclusive benefactor, the rapidly growing need for patient housing, and publicizing their existence to the community.
After opening with a handful of apartments a scant year ago, Ellen’s team is proud to celebrate their anniversary by adding their 11th family apartment. On Aug. 11, this newest apartment in the RMHBH will be open to the public for scheduled tours, and ready to welcome a new family.
Tucked away on the third floor of the Harborview apartment complex, the Ronald McDonald House staff is a small team with a big purpose: to host families and children seeking life-saving treatment regardless of their ability to pay. Studies show that families, who stay together and bond with other families, know that their children gain a sense of normalcy and are better able to cope with their illness.
It has been widely reported that Boston is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis. Imagine that crisis with the added complexities of a sick child in desperate need of world-class treatment, a family with limited finances, the daunting prospect of arranging travel, a place to stay, transportation and support in an unknown city. In 2017 there were more than 500 requests for stays at “The House,” and 129 families from 10 countries and 23 states were able to stay. Currently, the Ronald McDonald House is always at 100 percent capacity, reflecting this urgent need for patient housing in Boston. Mid-year requests are on track to double those of last year, with each name on the wait list representing a family in need.
These waiting families are what drive Simmons to fundraise for more apartments. With only two Ronald McDonald houses in Massachusetts, patients who need rooms far outpace the current capabilities.
Entering the community space in the House headquarters, the rewards are immediately apparent on the “Wall of Gratitude.” Heartfelt family testimonials abound.
From the mother of Ava, a child who was diagnosed with a brain tumor and treated multiple times, comes one of those stories.
“Our biggest fear has always been the financial burden that comes along with any medical diagnosis. Ronald McDonald House has absolutely put an end to that,” read her statement.
Or, “We honestly considered selling our wedding rings before we found the Ronald McDonald House in Charlestown. Thank you, thank you. When I got here I felt safe.”
The children write the sweetest notes in crayon—without parental coaching.
“People assume my job must be sad,” explains Simmons. “However it is the complete opposite. These children are resilient and inspiring. Most of the time they come home from treatment and participate in our nightly activities. It is tougher for the parents, but a lot of the kids leave and say, ‘Thank you for my vacation.’”
Such is the mission of this compassionate, non-profit community within the larger neighborhood of Charlestown’s Navy Yard.
It is no wonder their mantra is “Keeping families close.”
The Open House is at Harborview, located at 250 1st Avenue on the Navy Yard, and runs Aug. 11, from noon until 2 p.m.
R.S.V.P. to Alyssa at [email protected] or visit Facebook to let them know you are interested in learning more, or visiting the House.