He was hospitalized two hours away from home and placed on the waiting list for a new heart. It didn’t seem like anything that anyone said to me was going to make things better,” Towanda Bagley says, as she reflects on her medical journey with her 9-year-old son Keymonte. “Then the Ronald McDonald House, just a short distance away from Keymonte’s bedside, opened their door for me. They said, ‘Hey, we have a bed and food.’”
Simple words and a simple offer, but according to this mom, it was exactly what she needed to hear.
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Richmond (RMHC of Richmond) is a home away from home for families with children receiving medical treatment in Richmond. As too many parents know, when a child is sick, it can drain every ounce of energy from a family. RMHC of Richmond believes that families with sick children, like the Bagleys Of Keysville, Virginia, shouldn’t have to worry about where they will sleep at night, where they will get their next meal, or how they will do laundry. The goal of RMHC of Richmond is to take care of all of the family’s basic needs so they can focus on what matters most: their child’s well-being.
Every night, up to nine families stay at the house on Monument Avenue. The staff and volunteers work hard to create a friendly, caring atmosphere twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year. For families of the most critically ill children, five hospital-based Ronald McDonald Family Rooms offer respite at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU and Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital. It is estimated that these two programs save the families that are served close to $640,000 in gas, food, and hotel expenses annually.
Kerry Blumberg, executive director of RMHC of Richmond, says “Since 1980, we have been providing home-like comfort and support for families with children receiving medical treatment in Richmond. Our location on Monument Avenue is central to many of Richmond’s pediatric medical services. The power of our mission moves me every day to provide excellence in service and improve the ways we support our families,” says Blumberg.
The average length of stay for a family is eight nights. Last year, Blumberg says RMHC of Richmond welcomed families from seventy-eight counties in Virginia, fifteen states, and six countries. Research shows a family presence helps children heal faster and cope better. “Staying close by allows parents to better communicate with their child’s medical team and keep up with treatment plans,” she adds.
Towanda will tell you the support and security she feels knowing RMHC of Richmond is there for her family is almost as important as the medical care Keymonte receives while in Richmond.
“Being able to stay next to Keymonte, having a place to eat a hot meal provided by volunteers, to hold my head up… it gave me strength to help Keymonte fight, and that was huge for me,” says Towanda. “Ronald McDonald House provides a place for hope and healing when your world is falling apart. They provided stability among utter chaos and made Keymonte’s illness and recovery much less difficult.”