Ronald McDonald House staying busy since expansion

SOUTH BEND, Ind -- It was Valentines morning that ABC57 first took you inside the expanded Ronald McDonald House - just hours before opening its doors to the families of children being treated at Beacon Children's Hospital. Over the last 8 months the house has remained at 70 percent occupancy, giving countless families a free place to stay and the freedom to focus on getting their kids better.

Taking a moment to prepare a snack in the kitchen may seem like the most ordinary of tasks for most people, but for Kimberly Beachy it's a moment away from the beeps of hospital equipment and a chance to recharge as she watches over her baby girl claire as she fights to grow stronger.

"My daughter was born at 28 weeks 5 days, so we are here in the NICU with her," said Kimberly.

Kimberly is from Millersburgh, Indiana about 40 miles from the Hospital. She has been calling the Ronald McDonald House home for the last two and a half weeks.

"I'm staying at Ronald McDonald House most nights," said Kimberly. "My husband stays every once in a while, but he is going back and forth for work."

If not for the 20 overnight rooms and facilities at the house Kimberly would be forced to sleep in the hospital room and travel more than 30 minutes for some of the comforts of home that are now just a short walk away.

"I would have to go back and forth from home," said Kimberly. "So that would be two vehicles and extra gas to get back and forth."

"My due date was December 12, so we have a while to go," said Latasha Taylor.

Latasha has been staying at the house for over four weeks allowing her to stay at her son's side since his early entry to the world.

"It makes me feel at home, because when my daughter comes on the weekend she has somewhere she can play, they have a variety of things for us to do, they provide meals for us," said Latasha.

On this september evening a group of retired teachers from Chesterton volunteered to provide a home cooked meal for the families. They're just one of many groups who help make sure there is a hot meal on the table 365 days a year.

"I know all of us have probably had kids in the hospital on a shorter term so I can imagine how terrible it would be to have a child in the hospital for a long term and it would be nice to have a place to come and not always be eating fast food," said Gloria Horn, one of the retired teachers.

Gloria says getting to see the impact of their work firsthand makes it all worth it.

"It's very easy to send money off to places, but you never really know what happens to that money and this you can see hands on where it's going to and you get to have a good time with your friends as well," said Gloria.

Whether its money or time given -- niether is lost on the families.

"Without them and without the people who work here I honestly don't know what I would do. I really don't," said Latasha. "This is a lot that people are doing for us and I appreciate it."

"It makes the parents lives a lot easier," added Kimberly. "It gives us peace of mind that we can be close to our little ones while we are going through something that is pretty traumatic as it is."

The extra space is also allowing the house to host events that would not have been possible in the old house. Today, the Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio Regional Council of carpenters is inviting patients being treated at Beacon Children's Hospital to come over for lunch and a chance to build some items that they can take with them.

The 2.9 million dollars to build the house has been raised, but the cost to run the house is ongoing and comes soley from its donors.

If you would like to make a donation click here.

If you would like more information about volunteering, click here.

If you would like more information about providing a meal, click here.

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