Our bright yellow, three-story, Florida Cracker-style house opened as the first Ronald McDonald House in Central Florida, with 13 bedrooms and a shelled-out third floor in December 1996. Located on land donated by Florida Hospital, families of critically ill children turn to the Ronald McDonald Houses in Orlando when their children are hospitalized or receiving treatment at area medical facilities.
The purpose of the Ronald McDonald House of Orlando is to provide a "home-away-from-home" for these families in medical crisis. Before the Ronald McDonald Houses, being with a hospitalized child meant parents were sleeping in their cars or in chairs in the waiting room, eating out of vending machines, or bearing the expense of impersonal hotel rooms.
In the summer 1998, the House reached full-occupancy and we found ourselves in the position of having to turn families away. The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Florida, Inc. board of directors (the governing board of the House) decided to expand the shelled-out third floor, remaining steadfast in its mission to serve as many families with sick children as possible. We opened the third floor in February 2000, providing an additional nine bedrooms, for a total of 22 bedrooms available each night.
Even with this expansion the House again experienced full-occupancy many nights and often operated with a waiting list. Feasibility studies determined that a second Ronald McDonald House was needed. Land was donated by Orlando Regional Healthcare and ground was broken on the campus of Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children & Women in March 2002. The first families were welcomed in May 2003. This second Ronald McDonald House is a three-story plantation colonial-style home accented with a southeastern-style tower on the corner, which houses the living and gathering rooms. The third floor of this house was originally shelled-out and was opened in October 2005 with an additional 15 bedrooms available to families. This brings the number of bedrooms in this House to 37.
Our Ronald McDonald House program is now two Houses strong with 59 bedrooms to serve families in medical crisis with an ill child. We are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to provide families with a safe haven close by the hospital, so that they can focus on the wellness of their child.
Families have a themed bedroom of their own with a private bath, a family-style kitchen for a home-cooked meal and laundry facilities for their personal use. It is a place where worried moms and dads talk to one another, sharing their fears, hopes and sometimes pain. For the child who is ill, having a Ronald McDonald House nearby means they rest easier knowing that mom and dad are moments away. Families are asked to make a $15 donation per night. No family is ever turned away. Financial support for the Houses comes from fundraising and special events, corporate and individual contributions, foundations, local McDonald's Owner/Operators and customers, and House guest donations.
Both Houses have a manager on duty 24 hours a day. A van transports families to and from area hospitals. More than 200 volunteers provide support for our guests and House operations. They check families in and out, answer the phones, give house tours, perform light housekeeping chores, and provide emotional support for the families. Volunteers also assist with fundraising and other special events.
Our Houses truly are "the Houses that love built..."