Hometown Highlight: Ronald McDonald House of the Southwest
When a child becomes seriously ill, oftentimes parents struggle to cope with their child’s illness, finding the correct treatment and traveling long distances to seek medical care. It can be an overwhelming and daunting experience for any family to undergo. In 1973, that’s what happened to Philadelphia Eagles football player Fred Hill and his wife, when they learned their daughter Kim, had leukemia.
He learned at the children’s hospital that there were many families in the same situation - they drove hours to the hospital to be with their children, only to sleep overnight in waiting rooms and eat from vending machines. As a result, the Ronald McDonald House (RMH) was formed in partnership with the Philadelphia Eagles and McDonald’s to restore a house – the original Ronald McDonald House - near the hospital where families could stay. Today, more than 300 houses have been built worldwide to benefit similar families.
The need to start an RMH of the Southwest in Lubbock, Texas originated in 1981 by the Junior League of Lubbock. An organization named Family House, Inc. was organized in 1983, which was supported by the local McDonald’s restaurants and the McDonald’s corporation. Serving Lubbock and the South Plains, the Permian Basin, the Big Country, Concho Valley and the Southeastern New Mexico regions, the organization cultivates and enhances relationships with hospital partnerships, the counties they serve and individual and company partnerships.
“I became part of this wonderful organization five years ago,” said Emmanuel Ramirez, Interim President and CEO of RMH of the Southwest. “Since then, with our Board of Leadership Team’s guidance, we have expanded our footprint in the 67 counties we serve. Over the past five years, we have enhanced relationships and partnerships.”
The goal of RMH of the Southwest is to provide families with stability and resources to be with their child during illness or injury. The programs include housing rooms at the home where families are able to stay overnight while their child is undergoing treatment and RMH also has family rooms at the hospitals, an RMH Care Mobile and the Guest Chef Program which allows volunteers to provide a warm meal for families to have upon the return of hospital visits.
Anyone interested can contact the house to learn more about how they can help with any of the programs. Another way to help the organization is by donating money or services and products that they use in their Family Rooms. Simply mentioning their charity and the work they do is also beneficial to the organization.
A special member of the team at RMH of the Southwest is Jax, their Chief of Cheer.
“Jax is a trained therapy dog qualified to make visits to the hospital to provide emotional support and comfort to the children receiving treatment. Everyone loves Jax’s sweet and gentle demeanor, he greets everyone he meets like an old friend,” Ramirez said.
RMH of the Southwest turns no one away regardless of financial status and strives to provide a home away from home for families during their child’s hospital stay.