Earlier this fall I joined some of the staff from at Macdonald Youth Services (MYS) to make dinner for guests staying at the Ronald McDonald House (RMH) in Winnipeg.
Patricia Skirzyk is a Clinical Case Manager at MYS. She organized the volunteer event as she has supported the Ronald McDonald House in the past.
“Families dealing with a sick child should not have to worry about other daily things,” says Patricia. “I help with washing towels and bedding, I clean, I play with children and visit with parents. I will do whatever is needed at the time,” she adds.
“The parents sometimes just need to talk about something other than their sick child. I have seen children come and go from the house over the years. Some I have had the pleasure to get to know better as their stay is long.”
If you weren’t familiar with the Ronald McDonald House, it is a “home-away-from-home” for rural Manitoban and out-of-province families with a child requiring treatment at a nearby hospital.
The house is a warm, supportive, and welcoming space where families can stay close, be together, and connect with each other in a compassionate and supportive environment.
Personally, I had never given much thought to supporting Ronald McDonald House as I’d assumed they received all the funding they needed from McDonald’s Restaurants.
After taking a tour of the house and speaking with their house manager, Pat Battellino, I learned that this is simply not the case.
Ronald McDonald House is a charity that relies heavily on support from private donors and volunteers to carry out its important activities. It’s clear that the staff and volunteers put a lot of care into the work they do supporting Manitoba families.
The house is a beautiful space where families can stay for a very small overnight rate. It’s a place where children can pick out a “stuffy” when they arrive and families can also choose a new, homemade quilt that they can take home with them when they leave.
Volunteers can help in a variety of ways, including planning and preparing dinner for the families in the beautiful kitchen space.
“I have been bringing co-workers to make dinners for a couple years now,” explains Patricia. “We plan and cook a meal for the families staying at the RMH. I know from the families that they enjoy and appreciate the home-cooked meals. It is another thing they do not have to worry about,” she adds.
“Families are often emotionally tired when they return to the house after a long day at the hospital,” says Pat Battellino. “It can feel like a burden to have to find the energy to prepare dinner for themselves,” Pat explains.
“The Home for Dinner Program provides an opportunity for our community to give support to families in need. By planning a menu, preparing it on site and doing the clean-up, families are provided a nutritious home-cooked meal. It’s a wonderful way for our families to connect with our local community and feel that they are not alone.”
Bobbie Hornan is another MYS staff person who joined in for the volunteer outing. She explains, “I help volunteer because it’s a kind thing to do, gives back to the community and most importantly, it gives the families one less thing to worry about in their time of need. I’m also a cancer survivor so it’s my way of giving back as well.”
“Home for Dinner welcomes all groups from corporate teams, families, groups of friends, and sports teams to come and prepare dinner or a weekend brunch,” says house manager Pat.
“Interested parties can connect with us through our website under the ‘Home for Dinner’ program. We send a contact information form, which includes an area for the chosen menu plan. Information on food safety is shared. Prior to the group arriving at the house, I relay the number of guest families staying at the house so they have an idea of how much food to prepare.”
Not interested in cooking? You can get involved in supporting families at the Ronald McDonald House in other ways.
“There are many opportunities for volunteering. At the house, volunteers may assist staff with facility maintenance, baking, turning over bedrooms for new family check-in, inventory control, pantry coding, house décor, holiday planning and decorating and seasonal outdoor yard work,” says Pat.
“At our program in Children’s Hospital, the Family Room relies on volunteers to operate the facility under the direction of the Family Room Manager. The Family Room welcomes all families that have a child in [the] Children’s Hospital. They see up to 24,000 visits per year,” she adds.
“The members of the team who have come always leave feeling good and want to help again. Making a meal and serving to people who need it is like giving the families a supportive hug,” Patricia shares. “It is such a small gesture that means so much. MYS supports families and so does RMH. It is a great opportunity for those who want to help but don’t have a lot of time to give.”
If you are someone who is interested in being a part of this great experience, you can visit the charity’s website at https://www.rmhcmanitoba.org. If you would like to learn more about the work being done to support youth by Macdonald Youth Services, please visit www.mys.ca.