By Kate Daly | Special to the Almanac
A dedicated group of local donors, board members and volunteers is pitching in to help double the size of Ronald McDonald House at Stanford, where families of patients at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital stay.
Construction is underway to add a new building that will enable the organization to serve more families and patients like 6-year-old Nevaeh Moses, who last November finally received the kidney transplant she had needed for a year.
For most of that time, she and her twin sister and younger brother shared a room at the Ronald McDonald House with their mother, April Moses. Ms. Moses says she loved being there because the residents are going through experiences similar to her own.
"I've made some of my best friends there," she says, including a woman she calls "her new mother."
To be closer to that woman, the Moseses plan to move from Reno to Las Vegas when Nevaeh is done with treatment. Right now "home" is a studio apartment in Mountain View. The twins are attending Escondido Elementary School at Stanford.
The family had to move out of Ronald McDonald House at 520 Sand Hill Road when the new building expansion started next door. The construction has stirred up too much dust and spores for some of the immune-suppressed patients to stay at the current facility. Instead they are living in apartments in Mountain View and hotels in San Carlos and Belmont.
A 52,000-square-foot addition to Ronald McDonald House is expected to open in a year. Since groundbreaking last July, construction is progressing on time, with the underground parking and basement in place and the three above-ground floors taking shape.
The 40,000-square-foot current house, with 47 guest rooms, is slated for remodeling. The two buildings will provide 123 guest rooms, making this the biggest of 337 Ronald McDonald houses worldwide.
Bob McIntire of Menlo Park, CEO of Nova Partners, a construction management and real estate development service firm, is volunteering his time as construction manager for the project.
Annette Eros, chief executive officer of Ronald McDonald House at Stanford, says the larger facility will help meet growing demand. Due to medical advances, doctors at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital attract and treat more serious cases. Also, the hospital is adding 100 beds by 2017.
The house, which turned away about 40 families a night in 2014, is open to families of patients, 18 and under, who are being treated at the hospital and reside at least 50 miles from the hospital. The average stay at the house in 2014 was 34 days, Ms. Eros says. About 70 percent of patients are from California.
So far, $31.6 million has been raised toward a fundraising goal of $40.5 million, which includes adding to an endowment to cover operating costs.
A series of private fundraising events have been held, such as one last summer at the Woodside home of Laurie Kraus Lacob, a member of the organization's board of directors. The public phase is now underway.
Longtime supporter Dan Francis of Woodside recently joined the board and plans "to try to appeal to more philanthropic corporate giving." McDonald's Corp. provides about 10 percent of the operational budget. Otherwise the house is primarily reliant on individual donors.
The new complex will include a common kitchen, dining room, children's activity rooms, a media and business center, laundry room, spa area for free haircuts and massages, a meditation garden, and playground, as well as administrative offices and conference rooms.
A day pass room will offer a place for local and outpatient families to take a nap or shower.
Melody Mainville estimates she and her 7-year-old son Elijah have stayed at Ronald McDonald House "40 times off and on for the last four years," ever since he was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma.
They stayed in the area for two years during Elijah's cancer treatments, and when he went into remission, he returned home to Tuolumne, California, where her husband works as a machinist and their older son goes to school.
Now into his third relapse, Elijah is being home-schooled while he is back at Stanford receiving chemotherapy, one week on, and two weeks off. When he's having treatments, his mother says, she tries to stay at Ronald McDonald House because "it feels like home away from home." She likes the playroom where Elijah can hang out and the warm volunteers.
The Mainvilles' insurance helps pay for his stays. In general, insurance covers $30 to $40 of the $134 daily room cost. Families are asked to pay $10 a night, and about 30 percent do, Ms. Eros says.
Ms. Eros anticipates adding staff when the complex is complete. In addition, there will be a need for more volunteers than the 150 or so people who currently help out each week.
Diane Claerbout of Stanford has been giving free weekly massages at Ronald McDonald House for eight years. She is on the lookout for another volunteer with just the right touch with families. "We really do make a difference to help them relax," she says. "It is the most stressful thing to have something wrong with your child."
Go to www.rmhstanford.org for more information about Ronald McDonald House.