By Sarah Slimmon, along with Matt, Ryder & Jackson Slimmon, Ronald McDonald House Central Alberta family
On September 14 my husband and I were guests at the 360 Fitness Fundraising Gala and were lucky enough to be able to speak about “Our Story” of how the Ronald McDonald House impacted our lives. There were 265 guests in attendance, and the Gala raised $23 907 for the Ronald McDonald House!! Amazing!!
Now I am lucky enough to be able to share the words I spoke at the Gala (with a few additions) on this blog :-)!
The Ronald McDonald House impacted our lives in a way I never knew was possible! Before I get into how it has impacted our family directly I will first share a little bit about how our stay came to be:
My husband and I are from Wainwright, which is 3hrs from Red Deer and just over 2 to Edmonton. Expecting twins I knew I would potentially deliver early and that the Royal Alex in Edmonton was where our little munchkins would be born. Deliver early I did!!
Our precious boys came at 33 weeks which meant that we could expect to be in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for 2-7 weeks. In the end we spent 29days in NICU’s. After the boys were born we spent the first 3 days at the Royal Alex as expected. But, on the morning of our fourth day, out of the blue the doctors told us we were being transferred out. There was ‘no room at the inn’! We were given the choice of Saskatoon or Red Deer – Red Deer was our choice!
Personally this upheaval was hard for me, but my husband was a huge support and in a matter of hours our first little guy was being loaded into an ambulance for the trip to Red Deer. I travelled with Ryder and my husband followed in our truck. This was NOT how we pictured our first family trip south!?!!
We got to the Red Deer hospital at 10:30 pm and while I got Ryder settled my husband checked into the Ronald McDonald House. Our second little guy arrived in Red Deer at 4:30 am. We had waited at the hospital for Jackson’s arrival as we were not able to travel with him. Finally, with both boys settled… at 5:30 am my husband and I walked the block and a half to the Ronald McDonald House. So convenient with it just being down the street!!
Seeing the entrance with the big arch for the first time was unexpectedly emotional… it hit us that although we were aware of Ronald McDonald Houses… we never thought we would need to stay. My husband and I soon realized that we had NO IDEA of what Ronald McDonald Houses actually offer to families with children staying in the hospital.
In short… the Red Deer Ronald McDonald House became my home for 4 weeks.
The house itself is beyond impressive and the staff really make it feel so welcoming – which in turn made us feel so comfortable.
Everything we needed and more was provided:
– fridge and pantry space;
– nursing/pump area;
– laundry facilities; and
– an amazing room nicer than any hotel we would have stayed at.
Then there were details. Just a few of the details we experienced were:
– hair straightener in the bathroom;
– flowers in the planters;
– “Stuff a Bear” kits for each boy left at our room door one evening; and
– welcoming gift bags with BEAUTIFUL handmade blankets, pillow cases.
It was the friendly caring staff and the details that really started to make it feel so welcoming and like home so easily for me.
If for some reason someone wasn’t feeling at home by this point… they would just need to attend one of the sponsored meals! Nothing like a home cooked meal to feel comfortable! I also thoroughly enjoyed the fresh baking prepared by the volunteers whom came in weekly to ensure there were tasty treats at all hours of the day/night!
Words can’t express how appreciated this aspect of staying at the house was for us. The meals cooked and provided by each of the volunteer groups and organizations were OUTSTANDING. We arranged our day to be able to make the supper time!!
It was at one of these meals that was sponsored by 360 Fitness that I met Brooke and some of the other fitness staff. Not only did 360 Fitness prepare enough food for that night’s supper and a couple days of left overs; they also prepared over 80 meals in microwaveable freezer packs so if someone couldn’t get back to the house to eat there was a healthy option while at the hospital. 360 Fitness happened to cook at the house in my last week of being in Red Deer which meant that it was long hospital hours in the final stages of preparing to go home – the quick easy meals were perfect! Also, they somehow found the time to bake home-made granola bars… healthy and tasty!! I got the recipe and these have become my go to snack while nursing my little munchkins!
One of the most important ways that the Ronald McDonald House impacted our family was that our stress was minimized. We were able to focus all of our energy on our boys and getting home (our Wainwright home)…
As a recipient of the extreme generosity that the Ronald McDonald House offers -thank you from the bottom of our hearts to EVERY staff, volunteer and donating individuals / organizations.
Hopefully through “Our Story” I’ve been able to give an idea of how every moment of time volunteered, every dollar donated, or pop tab collected… a family in an unexpected situation can be impacted in such a positive way.
As Dusty, one of the Ronald McDonald House staff members, said to me every morning as I left for the hospital:
“Have a magical day!”