NYC Facility Turns 35, To Welcome 30,000th Family

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A New York institution will reach two milestones this week.

As WCBS 880’s Wayne Cabot reported, the Ronald McDonald House, an 84-room oasis on East 73rd Street for sick kids and their families, is marking its 35th anniversary and will welcome its 30,000th family.

The Ronald McDonald House is not a hospital. It’s more like a hotel for families who need medical help, but also a compassionate distraction from illnesses that can test families.

“Yes, the sick child obviously gets the most attention and the most resources,” said Bill Sullivan, executive director of the Ronald McDonald House. “But we also realize that there are silbings in the group — which I call the ‘forgotten population’ here at Ronald House. And the mother and father are so concentrated on the sick kid that oftentimes by no fault of their own, they neglect that other one.”

That’s where the staff of 50 and hundreds of volunteers from the New York area come in.

“About 450 active volunteers — one more active and more dedicated than the next,” Sullivan said.

One volunteer who really bonds with the children is Christine Taylor, who is battling cancer.

“She really relates to us because she has cancer, too,” said Antoinette, one of the little girls staying at Ronald McDonald House. “And she’s just like one of the people I can just talk to about how I’m feeling and stuff.”

Said Taylor: “Hey, you know what, I have cancer, and I don’t know how long I have, but I’m able to give back. I’m still able to be valuable and make a big difference in these children’s lives.”

By putting on plays and teaching kids about science — volcanoes that erupt, rockets that launch — the Ronald McDonald House staff can allow their guests to just be children again and not dwell on their cancer.

The McDonald’s Corp. funded 60 percent of the building’s construction cost and then turned the facility over to the community, meaning the Ronald McDonald House depends entirely on donations to operate.

Families pay a nominal fee to stay there.

“A lot of them have financial difficulties because a child that’s really crticially sick can really bankrupt a family sometimes,” Sullivan said.

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