Expansion at RMH near Lurie Children’s Means New Resources for Families

When your child is sick, it’s hard to think of anything beyond the next doctor’s visit or treatment appointment. But this summer, two major initiatives at the Ronald McDonald House near Lurie Children’s are addressing family needs from housing to emotional support to make it a little easier for parents to focus on the most important thing – their child’s health.

New Rooms Mean More Families Stay Together

The eighth and ninth floors at the RMH near Lurie Children’s were designed for families with a child undergoing an organ transplant or who were otherwise immunocompromised. When these floors were designed seven years ago, a kitchen was incorporated into each floor. Over the years, and with input from families and in collaboration with Lurie Children’s, it was determined that more rooms for families would better utilize the space. By removing the dedicated kitchens, more guest rooms could be added to accommodate families.

“We’re so excited to add these new rooms because it means we’ll be able to help even more families stay near their hospitalized children,” said April Hudson, Program Director at the RMH near Lurie Children’s. “We’ve also been very lucky to work with our sister RMHC-CNI Houses nearby to accommodate families during the construction so we could minimize the impact on families who were already staying with us.”

“Every family here who has gone through a transplant knows the anxiety that surrounds keeping your child as well as possible when they’re immunocompromised,” Hemma Clark, whose son John Francis had a heart transplant in June 2019, noted, “but this place brought us peace of mind. The hardwood floors, which are easy to clean, having a fridge in the room for his 23 medications – it all made things so much easier, and there’s a community here who understands those challenges.”

In addition to the new rooms, the entire eighth and ninth floors are also getting brand new flooring, paint, plumbing updates, and new room fixtures.

Postpartum Moms Come Together for New Support Group

In addition to physical space, a new program for moms with children in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and the Cardiac Care Unit at Lurie Children’s is also helping families cope with the emotional challenges that come with having a child in the hospital.

Mama Connection, offered in partnership with The Family Institute at Northwestern University, gives moms a warm and welcoming space to get and give support while dealing with the stress of caring for a sick child, as well as access to therapists and staff who are experienced in supporting new parents. The weekly program, which launched in July, has already received positive feedback from participants and staff.

“We are always looking for new ways to support families during the stressful time of a child’s hospitalization,” said Lisa Mitchell, Vice President, Programs and Services. “Through this partnership with The Family Institute, we’re offering services that we never have before. The ability for moms of newborn babies with complicated medical situations to come together in this way will bring untold benefits. We are grateful for the opportunity to make this new method of care possible.”

“The Family Institute is proud to launch this powerful partnership with Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana,” added Jana Jones, President and CEO of The Family Institute at Northwestern University. “Each organization is bringing its unique expertise to the collaboration to best support families during a challenging time. We commend the Charity for recognizing that families need support for their mental health as much as their physical health. Being a caretaker can bring stress and an avalanche of emotions. Giving staff and mothers with babies in the intensive care unit the mental health skills and needed emotional support will lead to better long-term outcomes both physical and mental.”

AbbVie Gives Back

Both of these projects were made possible through the generous and continued support of AbbVie. In August of 2018, AbbVie gifted RMHC with a historic donation of $100 million. This contribution, the largest single donation in both AbbVie and RMHC history, ensures essential support such as housing, meals and education for hospitalized children and their families across the United States – including the room expansion at the RMH near Lurie Children’s.

As part of this donation, $2 million over the next two years was allotted to support the RMHC Remarkable Impact Grants program. Thanks to AbbVie, 29 RMHC Chapters in the United States will receive funding to enhance their depth of support and services through new or expanded family-centered initiatives for guest families. Mama Connection was one of the many programs funded by this new grant.

“RMHC recognizes the unique needs of the families we serve,” said Sheila Musolino, president and CEO, RMHC. “We are grateful to our tremendous partners at AbbVie for making the Remarkable Impact Grants program a reality – and enabling our Chapters to lead the way in providing family-centered services and support at a time when families need it most.”

Critical to the success of the Remarkable Impact Grants program is the element of community engagement. From outreach to local businesses, hospitals, and colleges in the development of materials and sharing their resources, time and talent, to new opportunities for volunteers participating in meal programs and providing education on healthy eating and holistic wellness.

“As a company that is committed to supporting families and strengthening our communities, we are proud to partner with Ronald McDonald House Charities in support of the 2019 RMHC Remarkable Impact Grants,” said Laura Schumacher, vice chairman, external affairs and chief legal officer, AbbVie. “We thank RMHC for adding these meaningful programs to the resources they provide to help families thrive during and after a child’s treatment.”