In 2017-18, a Practicum team comprised of four first-year students from the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service – Julie Joy (Portland, Maine), Nicole Kanu (Little Rock, Ark.), Madhav Shroff (Hot Springs, Ark.), and Patrick McBride (Washington, D.C.) – worked on an expansion study to identify area hospital needs, current capacity for Ronald McDonald House to help, and next steps for growth of its programs. Through their efforts, RMHCA was made aware of unmet needs at area hospitals, but particularly at UAMS. A partnership was formed that started with a meal delivery program from RMHCA and quickly expanded into a project to help in a larger way, by building a Ronald McDonald Family Room at UAMS.
The Family Room will be one of three programs operated by Ronald McDonald House Charities of Arkansas (RMHCA) and will serve approximately 1,000 families each year, doubling the impact of RMHCA programs. Through the Family Room program, families with babies in the NICU will be able to remain present and involved in their child’s hospitalization and treatment, while helping them in the healing process. This will be the first Ronald McDonald Family Room in central Arkansas.
The goal of the Family Room is to provide respite and keep families together during the stress of having a baby in the NICU. The 2,000 SF space will have up to four overnight rooms for families with siblings and a common area for day use by up to 64 NICU families. This includes living and dining areas with a coffee and beverage station, laundry facilities, kitchen with nightly dinner provided, family bathroom with a shower, plus a play area. The Ronald McDonald Family Room will allow parents to retreat from the constant dings, bells, and buzzes of their baby’s NICU room into a quiet space so they can be in the best position to make vital decisions and be present both mentally and physically for their babies.
“We are delighted to partner with UAMS to create a Ronald McDonald Family Room just steps from the NICU,” said Janell Mason, executive director of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Arkansas. “Our 5-story Ronald McDonald House served more than 1,200 families last year from UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital and Baptist Health Medical Center. Creating this new program at UAMS will enable more families to stay together with their other children, experience the comforts of home, enjoy a good night’s rest, and allow them to better focus on the care of their infant. We couldn’t be more excited.”