Giving the gift of family: Ronald McDonald House brings festive joy to sick kids

Christmas is a time for family.

That’s what makes the work of Ronald McDonald House Charities so important at this time of year, which helps house families whose children are in hospital.

It enables young boys and girls who are seriously ill to have their families close by when they are undergoing treatment and allows them to maintain a degree of normality in their family life.

MM spoke to Nicola Savage, fundraising manager for Ronald McDonald House Charities, who is proud that the organisation provides an invaluable service at what can be an emotional time of the year.

“This Christmas we are asking supporters to give the gift of family,” Ms Savage said. 

“When you think of Christmas you think of being at home with your friends and family.

“Often we support families with little babies, and as you can imagine they want to have their child’s first Christmas at home but instead it’s in a hospital.

“Coming up over the next few weeks is a Christmas party for children and their families and we’re also having Christmas dinner for them, so the houses are lively places to be around Christmas time.”

Ronald McDonald House Charities is an independent charity that provides free ‘home away from home’ accommodation at hospitals across the UK.

Ms Savage gave just one example of how the homes and their staff can provide a heart-warming Christmas service for families.

“I was chatting to a family that stayed at the house over Christmas last year with their little four-month-old baby who was very ill.

“Being at the house over Christmas meant the baby’s grandparents could join them and they could have their traditional Christmas meal together.

“The staff put Christmas presents outside the bedrooms for the family members and having the Christmas tree and the decorations up was like they were at home but they could still be moments away from their sick child.”

It’s not just at Christmas time the charity contributes a vital service to help children and families in need however.

“We are open all year round, there’s no timeline on when a child will be ill or when a family will need our accommodation,” fundraising manager Savage said.

“The families that we’re supporting tend to be the sickest and who have travelled the furthest. It’s a place to stay and it keeps the family unit together.

“We also have communal facilities which make the experience easier for families, as they are a place for people to interact with others going through similar situations.

“The house staff are just amazing, they try and make the environment as normal as possible for the families every day.”

There are 14 Ronald McDonald Houses in the UK and in 2014 they helped support over 6,000 families with children in hospital.

In total they’ve assisted over 60,000 families since they opened in the UK 25 years ago, in homes that range in size from eight bed-rooms to around 60- bed rooms.

Ronald McDonald House Charities relies on the generosity of supporters and fundraisers, including McDonald’s customers, without whom it would be unable to continue its work.

“We’re an independent charity with McDonalds being our biggest corporate benefactor and that’s from their customers donating alongside the staff and suppliers,” Ms Savage said.

“But we can’t be reliant on one source of income so we look out to the community where our houses are based.

“We are really grateful for the family that choose to support us once they have left.”

The charity’s work shows no sign of slowing down, and they look to gain more fundraising alongside expanding their facilities to help even more families heading into the future.

“We have three building projects in the pipeline at the moment so we will be adding to our group of houses,” Ms Savage said.

“One is opening next summer and two in 2017, so of course we will be continuing to support families in other areas.

“The expansion will provide an additional 100 bedrooms across the houses. We of course will need additional help and continual support to help us fund theses houses and the ongoing cost once their open.”

To donate to Ronal McDonald House Charities and see all the good work their doing this Christmas visit

Image courtesy of Personal Creations, with thanks.

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