There’s a good chance if you grew up in Newfoundland and Labrador, or are raising children here, you have stepped through the doors of the Janeway Children’s Health and Rehabilitation Centre.
You might have also had an overnight stay, or knew a friend or family member who required one.
For the residents of this province who live some distance away from St. John’s, that can sometimes pose a significant challenge.
Stephen Patten, a third-year psychology student, has been volunteering with Ronald McDonald House Newfoundland and Labrador since shortly after it opened in the fall of 2012. The facility is a home-away-from-home for families who have to travel to the city so their child can receive medical care at the Janeway.
Walk for Families fundraiser
“When they come here, nothing stops back home,” he said. “They’re still paying their mortgage. They still have car payments and a lot of them have to leave work. So, it’s pretty stressful. But Ronald McDonald House is there to help provide support during that time.”
Some families might only stay for a night or two, others have stayed more than 500 nights at the facility over a period of a few years. With hotel stays an estimated $150 a night in St. John’s, Mr. Patten says the Ronald McDonald House has saved families approximately $2.9 million in accommodation expenses since it opened.
“It’s like running a house with 15 families inside,” said Mr. Patten, who is the metro regional development co-ordinator for Ronald McDonald House’s largest fundraising event. “It costs about $870,000 a year to operate the house, so it can get pretty expensive. The Red Shoe Crew – Walk For Families takes place in more than 40 communities throughout the province and it’s something that everybody can get involved with.”
Last year the walk raised $263,000 – just under a third of the Ronald McDonald House’s operating costs. This year, Mr. Patten is hoping to involve university students, faculty and staff in the fundraiser.
“I’m trying to recruit teams, so I’ve been reaching out to Memorial students to get their classes to participate in the walk,” he said. “Right now, I have classes from commerce, pharmacy and human kinetics and recreation and I’m working on a psychology class.
“Since Memorial students come from every corner of the province, I suspect most of them would know someone who has used Ronald McDonald House or can relate to needing it before it opened,” he added. “I think if they were aware of it, they would realize how important it is.”
In addition to raising funds for Ronald McDonald House, Mr. Patten is hoping to raise awareness across the province. He says many people have heard about the facility, but aren’t aware of what it actually does — until they have a need of those services.
The fifth annual St. John’s Red Shoe Crew – Walk For Families will take pace Sept. 25 at the Mews Community Centre, with teams walking around Mundy Pond. Registration begins at 1 p.m.; the walk starts at 2 p.m.
“It concludes with a celebration of families, recognizing the strength it takes for families to heal a sick or injured child,” said Mr. Patten. “We will have children’s activities, special characters and snacks and refreshments, as well as an acknowledgement of participants and sponsors.”
Those who wish to get involved have three ways to do so: make a donation; register for a pledge sheet, collect donations and do the walk; or volunteer at the walk.