COVID-19 Program Update & How You Can Help Families

As news and information on the COVID-19 crisis evolves, please continue to check this page for the latest updates from the Charity and how you can join our effort to help families get better together.

January 1 Update

In 2020, we all experienced challenges we never could have imagined. But thanks to your support, families with a sick or hospitalized child still had a safe place to stay and a warm meal at the end of the day at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana.

In a year like no other, you helped us provide:

  • 26,349 nights of care for families in our Houses and Family Rooms (19,036 during the course of the pandemic)
  • Medical care for 1,940 children via our Ronald McDonald Care Mobile program, in addition to supporting 1,638 COVID-19 tests when our Care Mobiles were repurposed as mobile testing sites for our partners at Advocate Children’s Hospital over the summer.
  • Thousands of meals for families, keeping them fueled for the challenging days at their child’s bedside.

Despite those achievements, the pandemic continues to put families, staff, volunteers, and our community at risk. For that reason, our COVID-19 safety precautions related to guest families, in-person volunteering, and donation deliveries are still largely in place. Currently, only essential volunteers and small meal groups are able to lend their helping hands and family guests are limited to parents (or one parent and a support adult) and well-siblings on a limited basis with no outside visitors. We look forward to the days of open doors and smiles we can actually see, but we know that these restrictions allow us to continue safely serving the families who need us while they care for their hospitalized children.

Two important ways our community can continue to support families are through our Wish List and Care Kits programs. Both help provide families with essentials they need to feel at home during their stay.

View Our Wish List Learn About Care Kits


We are grateful for the commitment of our donors, volunteers, and supporters who insure that our services available for the families who need us. We know 2021 will present new challenges, but we know we can meet them head-on with your support.


November 2 Update

As the pandemic continues, we remain steadfast in our support of families with hospitalized children. As of October 31, we have provided a home away from home for more than 1,174 families and hosted 12,770 nights of care since the start of the crisis on March 15. While we have many restrictions in place, we are pleased to provide safe harbor for the families who need us and incredibly grateful to all who help us help.

As of November 1, RMH near Loyola has officially reopened and is ready to welcome families! The House will be on a modified schedule, opening at 2 p.m. on Sundays and closing at 5 p.m. on Fridays each week. This change in operations is driven by current occupancy needs and will be re-evaluated in the new year. The House has been closed since March in response to the COVID-19 crisis, but during that time, we ensured families in need had a place to stay near their sick children by offering hotel accommodations or providing support at our other Chicagoland Ronald McDonald Houses. Given that we are in the earliest stages of our reinstatement of this program, we will not be prepared to welcome volunteers back to the House until after the holidays. We look forward to the return of their warm hearts and busy hands!

Due to the surge in COVID-19 cases in Illinois, our Ronald McDonald Care Mobile program team has modified their care plan in an effort to continue to provide services to Chicagoland’s most vulnerable populations. Due to the small spaces that the Care Mobiles provide for medical visits, the team will suspend physicals and focus on vaccinations in an effort to reduce time in close contact with patients. If a school expresses a need for physicals to be included in the visit, the school must provide a space inside the building for appropriate social distancing during that extended medical visit. In 2020, despite an interruption of services due to COVID-19, 1,218 children have been served by the Care Mobile, receiving important preventative medical care. Please email Anne Czarnecki with any questions or interest in the Care Mobile program.

During this time of increasing COVID-19 risk, we encourage all within our community to stay safe. Wear face coverings, practice good hand hygiene, get your flu shot, and take care of each other. We are in this together!

August 5 Update

Following guidance from the state of Illinois and city of Chicago on travelers from out of state, families referred to an RMHC-CNI program from a state listed on Chicago’s Emergency Travel Order are required to have verified negative COVID-19 tests five to seven days after arriving in Chicagoland. This test is required for all guests who wish to stay at the House prior to arrival. Alternatively, a family from a restricted state can request a room after a 14-day quarantine period in Chicagoland.

In addition, a select list of COVID-19 safety protocols has been added to our Staying with Us page.

July 23 Update

We continue with our phased approach to broadening our access to the Houses and Family Rooms to families and volunteers, with more than 7,330 nights of care across 532 families since March 15.

We are pleased to announce that we have re-opened the Family Room in Edward Hospital, which is currently operating one day per week with a focus on providing one meal to families each week, with oversight by Family Room staff. The Family Room will operate on a modified schedule to start, eventually phasing back to seven days a week.

We are in the final stages of planning our reopening of the Family Room in Comer Children’s, which we anticipate in mid-August. Lastly, we are actively planning and assessing family need for the Ronald McDonald House near Loyola University Medical Center and are anticipating a September reopening.

In addition, we have submitted reinstatement plans for our Ronald McDonald Care Mobile program to RMHC Global. In partnership with Advocate Children’s Hospital, the Care Mobiles have been temporarily repurposed to support hospital staff as mobile COVID-19 testing locations.

We are also thrilled to begin welcoming back small groups of individual volunteers at select Houses to support our services to families, and anticipate reopening our Meals from the Heart volunteer opportunities in August.

Finally, we continue to monitor the latest recommendations and guidelines from Illinois and Chicago to inform our planning and next steps.

June 22 Update

We continue to serve families who need us at our Ronald McDonald Houses and Family Room throughout the COVID-19 crisis. To date, we have hosted 5,438 nights of care across 388 families since the start of the crisis on March 15.

To keep the families we serve and our staff as safe as possible, we have put substantial restrictions in place, including limiting our programs to only families with critical-care diagnosis for their children. Additionally, visitors and well siblings are not allowed at the Houses or Family Rooms, only primary caregivers and patients.

Currently, all meals for families are being catered with individual portions being picked up by families and eaten in private bedrooms or at the hospital, as our common areas are closed. While these restrictions are a burden for our families and a challenge for our staff, we believe that these precautions have kept our programs safe for the families who need us.

As we move into the next phase of management of this crisis, we have worked closely with our partners at Global RMHC to develop a comprehensive plan for expanding our access.  This plan allows us to slowly grow our occupancy, opening our doors to families of essential but planned surgeries outside of the Critical Care Units.

For our two Family Rooms that have been closed throughout the crisis, we are refining all operational plans and expect to reopen in the coming weeks. For the families of RMH near Loyola, we are offering families hotel accommodations as our hospital partners expand their own access, requiring additional support for families. Across all programs, health screening, 100% masking, social distancing, high levels of hand hygiene, sanitization of all surfaces, and elimination of visitors continue to be central to our strategy to keep everyone safe.

To further our support of safe communities, through our partnership with Advocate Children’s Hospital, our Ronald McDonald Care Mobiles are being utilized as medical staff offices at drive-up testing stations on the north and south sides of the city. We are happy to help provide this access to critical testing.

These small, cautious steps forward make us feel hopeful. We recognize the incredible strain that our families face and we are immensely glad to be a continued support pillar during this stressful time. We are grateful to our donors and volunteers who have stood by us during this crisis, and we look toward a brighter future where we can welcome our community all back into the Houses and Family Rooms to share the good work you have been steadfast in sustaining.

April 6 Update

  • Services at our Houses remain stable and we continue to serve families on a daily basis, including providing meals each day thanks to generous donations from individuals and corporate partners.
  • To protect the health and safety of our community, we’re changing the way we hold our Annual Gala, and we’re inviting our entire community to get involved. Everyone is welcome to join in the Un-Gala now through May 2 at our website or on social media for inspirational stories, fun activities, and exciting special guests all to help us raise $1 million to support families. Now, more than ever, we need you!

March 24 Update

  • Following Gov. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order on Friday, March 20, we have suspended all on-site volunteer activities until further notice for the safety and comfort of families staying at our Houses, as well as the safety of our volunteers, staff, and community. This includes all individual volunteers at our Houses and Family Room locations.
  • We continue to work closely with our local hospital partners as we monitor any changes to city, state, and federal guidelines, as well recommendations from RMHC Global, to help guide and inform our decisions.
  • We continue to serve families whose children are hospitalized or in active treatment. In order to more effectively meet families’ needs, we are consolidating resources across our Houses and Family Rooms. Working in concert with our hospital partners, we have temporarily closed the Ronald McDonald House near Loyola University Medical Center and the Ronald McDonald Family Rooms inside UChicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital and Edward Hospital, and have moved affected families to nearby Ronald McDonald Houses. Please note that families will not experience any interruption to the services they receive with this change.

How You Can Help

You can support our efforts to provide essential services to families in one of three ways:

  1. Make a financial donation today.
  2. Purchase restaurant gift certificates and mail them to any of our House locations.
  3. Cater a meal for families by visiting our Meals from the Heart page and selecting an available date from the calendars for each location.

We are grateful for the outpouring of community support during the past week and appreciate the many ways in which so many of you have rallied around our families in their time of need.

March 16 Update

As we navigate the uncertainty of COVID-19, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana is committed to providing a safe and supportive environment where families with hospitalized children can get better together. We continue to monitor the fast-changing facts and information with great concern and have been in close contact with our global RMHC team to ensure a proactive and unified response.

Please continue reading for an update on how we are serving families and how you can help us continue to provide essential services during this health crisis.

Ronald McDonald Houses & Ronald McDonald Family Rooms

Each of our Chicagoland Ronald McDonald Houses and Ronald McDonald Family Rooms are open and continue to keep families together. We are working closely with our hospital partners to ensure a safe and sanitary environment that protects the health of families, employees, volunteers, visitors, or others to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our community and beyond.

Meals from the Heart

Out of an abundance of caution, we have made the proactive decision to suspend Meals from the Heart, Culinary Hearts, Cookies from the Heart, Family Activity Program, and Pet Therapy volunteerism. The suspension of Meals from the Heart volunteerism means that groups who so graciously provide daily meals for families will no longer be able to do so in person.

How You Can Help

1. Make a Financial Gift: We will use these donations to purchase meals and other basic needs for 162 families staying at our Chicagoland Houses and Family Rooms. By purchasing food and items ourselves, we will dramatically reduce the number of visitors and delivery folks to our facilities, further reducing risk to families.

Make a Gift Today


2. Restaurant Gift Cards: Gift cards enable our team to purchase warm meals for up to 162 families staying at our house each day while minimizing risk to families and staff.  Gift cards can be sent directly to any of our Houses.

3. Cater a Meal: We are committed to providing families with safe, fresh lunches and dinners. Consider sending a catered meal from a local restaurant for families to enjoy after a long day at the hospital. Contact our Volunteer Services team at [email protected] to identify a date on which one of our locations could benefit from a catered meal.

While we do not yet know how long these changes will remain in effect, we will continue to evaluate the impact of the situation on our organization as the health and safety of our families, employees, and volunteers remains our top priority.

As a reminder, the most up-to-date information about COVID-19 is available from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

We are incredibly grateful for your support which will help families focus on what’s most important: their children.


With Gratitude,
Holly Buckendahl
Chief Executive Officer, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana