Ronald McDonald family room planned for St. Luke's Hospital

The space will include family bathrooms, kitchen, living space and sleeping rooms

(The Gazette file photo)
(The Gazette file photo)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Parents whose children are hospitalized soon will have a home away from home.

UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital and Ronald McDonald House Charities of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois announced plans Monday to build a Ronald McDonald Family Room, which will provide three sleeping rooms, a kitchen, laundry room, living room space and two shower suites to families whose children are being treated in the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit or Pediatric Unit.

“When your kid is sick or injured — it’s hard on the whole family,” said Kristin Roberts, executive director of the local nonprofit organization. “This will provide a sense of normalcy.”

The 1,200-square-foot family room will be on the second floor of the Helen G. Nassif Center for Women’s and Children’s Health. The hospital projects about 1,500 families will use the space each year.

Roberts said families can use the room to prepare and eat a meal together, pay bills and rest between surgeries or tests. Other amenities include a coffee-and-cookie cart and a family meal program.

The area will be open for use 24-hours a day and will be staffed between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Renee Funderburk, a board member for the local chapter of Ronald McDonald House Charities, said the family room also provides a level of emotional support. She said she knows from personal experience.

Funderburk’s daughter, Claire, was born nine weeks early while she was on a business trip in North Carolina.

“I was very overwhelmed,” she said, explaining it was recommended to stay in a Ronald McDonald House family room while her daughter was in the hospital.

“I made friends with the other families,” she said. “We supported and encouraged each other.”

St. Luke’s Foundation, the fundraising arm of the hospital, is raising $600,000 for the project, said Mary Klinger, the organization’s president, adding that $300,000 has already been raised or pledged. Ronald McDonald House will fund the annual operating expenses, including employees.

The hospital will remodel existing space, beginning in October, she said. It is expected to open in January 2015.

Roberts said while this will be the first family room in Eastern Iowa, the charity is working with other local hospitals to create similar partnerships.

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