After more than 30 years of operation in Wichita, two Ronald McDonald Houses will close to give way to what will be the largest Ronald McDonald House in Kansas.
The new house is a culmination of thousands of donations, said Susan Smythe, CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Wichita. The space for the house itself was donated by Wesley Healthcare and sits across from the new Wesley Children’s Hospital on Hillside. The house is not a stand alone building, but resides within the Wesley Medical Plaza.
“It’s overwhelming the support we have and we are so grateful,” Smythe said. “Without the space, we wouldn’t be in our location and we are so, so grateful for that.”
The new house spans more than 20,000 square feet and features 20 bedrooms, five of which are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
“Our spaces were outdated ... so we incorporated the needs of the families,” Smythe said.
The old houses each had ten rooms, but were limited in how many members of one family could stay in each bedroom.
The original houses built in 1983 and 1985 had bedrooms with two twin beds, and Smythe said the charity was using air mattresses to try to accommodate families that had more than two people staying in the houses. In the new house, each room will have two queen sized beds.
“We haven’t increased our bedrooms, but we’ve increased the number of family members that can stay in the room,” Smythe said.
Another new feature for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Wichita will be that the organization will provide meals for the families staying in the house, something Smythe said is only possible with the support of local families and businesses.
Even though the house is different from the previous houses in Wichita, its doors will still be open to the same families Ronald McDonald House Charities has always served.
“Families who have children who are receiving medical care in Wichita are eligible to stay,” Smythe said. “Our mission is to provide (for and support families.”
Additionally, expecting mothers with high risk pregnancies also are eligible to stay in the house with their families.
The house isn’t just for families with children in the hospital, but also for families whose child might be seeing a specialist in Wichita temporarily or a child getting outpatient treatment.
Internationally, there are about 360 Ronald McDonald Houses. There’s also another house in Topeka, Kan. that has eight bedrooms. In Wichita alone, the charity serves families from about 45 states and 14 other countries, Smythe said.
Despite the expanding global footprint of the charity, Smythe said each state has its own charity system.
“We’re separate. We are not a charity that’s connected,” Smythe said. “Money that’s raised in Kansas supports our Ronald McDonald Houses (here.)“
The house isn’t quite completed yet. Smythe said there are still a few minor components that construction teams are working on, but she expects to be checking families in by the weekend. This new house, she said, is the first step into what she hopes is a long future of providing support for families.
“We intend to be here for all those families that need a place to stay because of their sick child for a long, long time,” Smythe said.