What is a Ronald McDonald Family Room?
A NICU stay – no matter how long – can take a tremendous toll on a family. Parents travel back and forth from the NICU so that they can be with their child every free moment. They live on coffee, eat too many fast food meals, and may see each other only in passing. At the same time they are admonished to rest, take care of themselves, and not forget to pump breast milk every two to three hours! There’s no doubt that being in the NICU is stressful. That’s why hospitals that have a Ronald McDonald Family Room can offer a calm refuge for these families. These rooms are located within the hospital, usually not far from the Neonatal ICU or Pediatric ICU and provide families and comfortable place to rest, process medical information, check email, share a bite to eat and connect with a friendly host volunteer if they wish.
“During a period when my main task was searching for a new job, volunteering at our first Family Room was a great way for me to get out of my home and spend time helping other people going through a much more stressful time in their lives. It made me happy to know that even if I simply was there to allow the Family Room to be open, that it gave them a break from the sterile hospital atmosphere that had become their way of life. It was great to see parents and other family members be able to relax for even a few minutes, being able to return to their child’s beside a bit more refreshed and ready to give them their all.”
Jane Rose, Guest & Volunteer Services Coordinator for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Austin & Central Texas
The Ronald McDonald Family Rooms are run by staff and volunteers who work closely with hospital staff to provide the most comfortable and relaxing environment possible. Hand to Hold volunteers at both the Ronald McDonald Family Room at St. David’s Women’s Center of Texas and the new Family Room at St. David’s Medical Center Downtown. Volunteers can sign up for a shift any Monday to volunteer from 9:00am to 1:00pm. While they are there Hand to Hold volunteers will offer comfort and care for the families who are dealing with the stress of a NICU stay.
How to Volunteer
If you are interested in volunteering with Ronald McDonald House Charities and Hand to Hold please contact support [at] handtohold [dot] org. We are happy to accommodate your schedule the best we can. If you cannot offer your time but want to offer your talents, there are lots of ways to get involved – whether making meals, purchasing an item from the RMHC’s wish list, or offering to mentor a family. You may also contact the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Austin & Central Texas directly with any questions.
- Begin the process by filling out the Volunteer Application.
- Volunteers will go through a screening and training process with RMHC Charities and St. David’s before being cleared to volunteer.
- A negative TB blood test is required. Other vaccinations, like flu and pertussis, are highly recommended.
The Impact of Ronald McDonald Family Rooms
Allie Alter – wife of Hand to Hold Board President, Dave Alter – tells her story of having premature twins. One of them lived about an hour, and the other one, Jada, spent months in the neonatal intensive care unit at St. David’s North Austin Medical Center. The Ronald McDonald Family Room has been a place where Allie and her family could grab a bite to eat, visit with other families and just get away from the noises and beeps of the NICU. Video produced and edited by Ian Prikryl, directed by Jan Gunter.