Founded in 1982, Ronald McDonald House Charities Canada provides a home-like atmosphere for parents and children who travel long distances to seek medical treatment for three decades now. Located across from the Alberta Children’s Hospital, the new 23-bedroom Ronald McDonald House® Southern Alberta (RMHSA) was constructed in 2007, adding to RMHSA’s 12 other houses across Canada. CREB® caught up with RMHSA’s executive director Larry Mathieson to talk a little bit about the charity and the city he calls home.
CREB®>> What is the goal of Ronald McDonald House?
Larry>> Ronald McDonald House Southern Alberta provides a home away from home for sick children and their families when they must travel to Calgary for their medical needs.
CREB®>> Why is providing these homes so important?
Larry>> Most of Canada’s health care is built on centres of excellence, which means certain hospitals have certain specialties. In Calgary the Alberta Children’s Hospital is the centre for excellence for bone marrow transplants, which means if your child has cancer and needs a transplant they have to come to Calgary. Unfortunately not everyone who needs this treatment lives in Calgary. For those children we help to keep their parents and their families nearby while they have to go through these treatments.
CREB®>> What’s the best thing about being involved with Ronald McDonald House?
Larry>> It has to be getting to be around such amazing children and parents. You never know how strong you really are until being strong is the only choice you have. Our kids show us this strength everyday.
CREB®>> CREB®’s Charitable Foundation recently donated $25,000 to Ronald McDonald House. What will that that money/ other donations be used for?
Larry>> We charge families $12 a day to stay at the House. We never turn a family away who can’t afford this. The Calgary House with all its supports and programs costs about $3.1 million a year to run. McDonalds and their charity supports about five per cent of the operating costs each year the rest is covered by the generosity of individuals and companies in Calgary.
CREB®>> If you could change one thing about Calgary, what would it be?
Larry>> Oh God, it would have to be the weather. I love Chinooks in the winter, but a longer summer wouldn’t hurt.
CREB®>> What makes a good community?
Larry>> I think Calgary is a city with both great community spirit and great generosity. We see it all the time in our work. RMHSA has over 800 volunteers who readily give their time and energy to help families from all over the province and the west. We used to have a board member who used to say RMHSA was Calgary’s gift to Alberta and that is certainly true.
CREB®>> What’s your favourite room in Calgary’s Ronald McDonald House and why?
Larry>> It has got to be the Magic Room. When kids come to the House we make a big deal about keeping the room a secret. Ultimately we make sure that every child who stays at the House gets to go to the Magic Room. But until their visit it is top secret. The room is decorated with a castle/ wizard/princess theme, but for the kids the big deal is the walls are lined with toys and they can choose to take whatever toy they want. It is kind of like going to their own special Toys “R” Us.
CREB®>> What’s Calgary’s best-kept secret?
Larry>> We love the urban parks and pathways but when it comes to grabbing something to eat our family loves Holy Grill down by MEC. It is a quick place to grab a bite, but I am not sure you could call it a secret any more.
CREB®>> What’s your favourite way to spend a day off in or around the city?
Larry>> There are so many things to do in Calgary. Even though our own kids are adults now, we still love to go to the Calgary Zoo as a family, and you have got to love those penguins.
Replacing the first Ronald McDonald House in Calgary, which was constructed in 1985 in the community of Killarney, the new 23-bedroom Ronald McDonald House® Southern Alberta (RMHSA) was constructed in 2007. Located across from the Alberta Children’s Hospital, RMHSA utilizes land granted to the House by the Calgary Health Region and the University of Calgary. Parents/guardians who live outside a 45 km radius from the Alberta Children’s Hospital and have a child 18 years of age or younger who is receiving medical treatment are eligible to be admitted to RMHSA. Included in the amenities available at the house are a fitness room, laundry room, playground, a fully equipped kitchen, barbecues and a family computer room.
For more information or to donate to Ronald McDonald House® Southern Alberta, visit www.rmhsouthernalberta.org or call 403-240-3000