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Pediatric hospitals: the precious value of shelters for children’s families

«We discovered our youngest child’s illness when Francesco was one year old, by chance. I remember very well the first night we spent at Casa Ronald. We were very frightened: we did not know what to expect, how long we would have to stay away… Being welcomed to Casa Ronald that day was, however, the most beautiful thing that could have happened to us. We spent the afternoon in the games room, a hairdresser cut the hair of my husband Alberto and Samuele, and in the evening the clowns made us play, laugh and have fun. We went to bed a little more relaxed after spending one last day all together, before leaving for this great and tiring adventure ».

Nicole, mother of Samuele and little Francesco, who is hospitalized for a bone marrow transplant, tells about her experience: her family, resident in Veneto, in order to be close to the baby, was a guest in 2019 for about a year at the House. Ronald of Brescia.

The residence of Ronald McDonald Italy Children’s Foundation it is in fact among the 143 reception facilities identified by the Association of Italian pediatric hospitals which they host every year thousands of families forced to face the illness of a child far from home: in 2019 alone there were 5,569 at the Bambin Gesù in Rome, 962 at the Gaslini in Genoa and 731 at the Meyer in Florence.

Residences born from the desire of to be able to offer hospitality to all those parents who, in addition to the ordeal of a child’s illness, often have to take charge of difficulty finding accommodation that allows them to be able to assist the child by standing next to him.

In this sense, in Italy, the work carried out by Children’s Foundation Ronald McDonald, born in 1974 in the United States and active since 1999 in our country. In fact, the Foundation intends to build, purchase or manage houses located in the vicinity of hospitals, but also spaces located directly inside the pediatric wards, to offer hospitality and assistance to sick children and their families during the often very long period of therapy.

The history by Ronald McDonald House Charities begins in the USA, in Philadelphia, thanks to an idea by Fred Hill, champion of the football team of the city. When his young daughter, Kim, falls ill with leukemia, Fred and his family find themselves spending whole days in the waiting rooms and hospital wards, realizing that many parents are forced to face the same difficulties: many have traveled. long to bring their child to the hospital and for many the cost of a hotel room is prohibitive. Fred thinks of a place where parents of sick children can come together to support each other and Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s – who at that time had Fred Hill under contract – was struck by this idea, so much so that he decided to support it, with the promise to double every dollar raised for the realization of this initiative. From the unusual partnership between an American football team, a children’s hospital and a restaurant chain, ithe dream of welcoming homes.

From 1999 to today, in Italy alone, the Foundation has supported more than 45,000 children and families, offering over 235,000 overnight stays.

The structures of the Foundation in Italy

Thanks to the work of the Foundation, they exist today in Italy quattro Case Ronald McDonald close to several pediatric hospitals: two a Roma in the vicinity of the Child Jesus, one a Brescia near the ASST Spedali Civili and one a Florence in the vicinity of the Meyer.

In these structures the little ones, when they are not engaged in hospital treatment, can continue living with parents or siblingsi, thus alleviating many of the inconveniences that hospitalization entails. Each Casa Ronald, depending on the size, is equipped with welcoming spaces and many services: in the common areas there is one kitchen, a laundry room, a dining room but also meeting and relaxation areas for families, gyms for the neuropsychomotor rehabilitation of children, play areas and gardens for outdoor activities. In Brescia, for example, there is a kids garden equipped for family-friendly orthotherapy and there is a space to celebrate the birthday.

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