Ronald McDonald House celebrated its 35th year of giving families of sick children a “home away from home” with a symbolic ribbon-cutting — an open house and food Tuesday morning.

“We are celebrating the fact that we are growing and still supporting the community and those who travel a long distance to get medical treatment for their child,” Executive Director Terri Gray said to a group of about 30 people, including representatives of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce.

The first Ronald McDonald House opened in Columbia on May 21, 1983, at Stadium and Monk Drive, the current location of the Missouri Orthopaedic Institute. The house moved to its current location on Lansing Avenue near Women’s and Children’s Hospital almost five years ago.

In the years between, the number of rooms for families has doubled and programs have been added to serve residents of Boone County. The house now encompasses 19,000 square feet and has 18 guest rooms. It also has a commercial kitchen, playground, gathering rooms and quiet spaces.

One of the new programs includes a day-pass option that allows families who are not staying at the house to come by for a nap or a shower or just to watch TV. Families can even have breakfast or lunch at the house. This helps residents who live in Boone County get a break from the hospital while still being close to their child. Director of Development Ashlee Smith said she wants the community to know about this option.

“We would love to have as many day pass families as possible because we want to help as many people as possible,” she said.

Ronald McDonald also gets out of the house with its Happy Wheels Cart, which provides snacks, personal care items and toys to patients and their families at MU Women and Children’s Hospital two days a week. The cart distributed more than 6,000 items in 2017, Smith said.

“Even if a family isn’t staying at the Ronald McDonald House we kind of extend that hospitality to them,” Gray said.

Parent Sydney Hoagland attended the event Tuesday morning. She said she’d been staying at the house for the past 49 days while her child is in the neo-natal intensive care unit.

“The environment is so nice,” she said. “It’s homey, and it’s like a home away from home.”

Gray said the Ronald McDonald House Charities is thankful for the support it receives.

“We get families from all across the state that are traveling a far distance to get medical treatment for their child,” she said. “And it’s because of the community ... individuals, businesses and organizations that help support the house that we are able to provide the services we provide.”

  • General Assignment reporter, summer 2018 Studying science and agricultural journalism Reach me at mjrmg7@mail.missouri.edu, or in the newsroom at 882-5720

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