Ronald McDonald House to relocate

Friday, November 6, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 12:51 a.m. CST, Friday, November 6, 2009

COLUMBIA — After 26  years near University Hospital, the Ronald McDonald House is making plans to relocate and build a new facility.

The new house will be built at Portland Street and Lansing Avenue near Columbia Regional Hospital, where MU Health Care is moving all of its children's medical services.

More about Columbia's Ronald McDonald House

Here's a glance of the local Ronald McDonald House based on its 2008 annual report:

Families hosted: 644

Nights stayed: 3,487

Total grants: $30,463.75

Annual budget: $350,000

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"It will be in walking distance, so families will be close to their children," said Melody Bezenek, executive director of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Mid-Missouri.

Ronald McDonald House, which started in 1974, gives families and their children the opportunity to stay in a secure and comfortable environment outside the walls of a hospital.

"Our house cannot cure children, but we provide a place where parents can be comforted while staying within close proximity of their children," Shannon de Leon, director of development and communications for the charity, said in an e-mail.

The move to consolidate Children's Hospital will be an "added convenience to not only patients but staff as well," Matt Splett of MU Health Care said.

The subsequent move of Ronald McDonald House will allow families visiting Columbia Regional Hospital to be next door.

"Our new location will allow us to be near the Children's Hospital, where many of our families are receiving care," de Leon said.

According to the MU Health Care Web site, phase one of the new Children's Hospital will include new pediatric and adolescent private patient rooms, the Children's Blood Disorders and Cancer Unit, a pediatric short-stay unit, a pediatric intensive care unit and a pediatric cardiology clinic.

These programs are expected to begin at the new location next summer.

Phase two will include pediatric specialty outpatient clinics that will be moved to the hospital after phase one is complete. Those services could be available by summer 2011. But until the first phase is finished, there is not a well-defined time frame for the second phase, Splett said.

The existing Ronald McDonald House is located at Stadium Boulevard and Monk Drive near University Hospital and allows families to stay near children who are receiving treatment. Once the new house is constructed, the old one will be closed, de Leon said.

Because the present house has only 14 rooms, families have been turned away in the past, and de Leon said she hopes the new location will be bigger and have an elevator for easier wheelchair access.

The idea to switch locations came when the Children's Hospital move was announced, Bezenek said.

She said the new Ronald McDonald House will be funded by donations and fundraisers.

Although the project is in the early stages, "we are working diligently to finalize all the details on the new house," de Leon said, adding that the cost and design has not been determined.

What will happen to the existing house after the move also remains undetermined, Bezenek said.

De Leon said she hopes to have more information about the project by the end of the month.

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