The Ronald McDonald Charity recently celebrated the one year anniversary of their Cardiff House. The Cardiff House, which has 30 en-suite bedrooms, supports families of premature babies, providing them with a comfortable, home-away-from-home accommodation whilst their little one is treated at the Noah's Ark Children's Hospital and the neo-natal intensive care unit, located at the University of Wales Hospital, Cardiff.
The people behind the charity kindly invited me, Greg and George along to help celebrate their first birthday with a Fun Day at their Cardiff facility. We couldn't turn down an invite to such an amazing charity and day. And since our visit, I think they're even more amazing!
More than just a Charity
To be honest, before I was contacted by the Ronald McDonald House Charity, I didn't know much about what they did. I'd seen their money collection points underneath the McDonald Restaurant drive-through windows as I drove past, but that was all.
When I read up on the charity, it really moved me as to what they actually do. Since having George, I've become a lot more emotionally connected to things I see and read about babies and children. I'm set off (in tears) by even just the slightest heart-string-pulling stories. But it wasn't until we were actually shown around the facility and given a more in-depth description of what the charity does, that it hit me as to how lucky we are to have a heathy little boy. I can't imagine what these families have been through.
Over the last 29 years, the Ronald McDonald House Charity has supported thousands of families during what was some of the toughest times of their lives. With 14 houses across the UK, each supporting families with children in hospital for difference reasons, the houses are located just moments away from the children's hospitals. Families are welcome to stay for days, weeks or even years.
The Fun Day
When we arrived at the Cardiff House, we were met by the friendly staff who took time to show us around the amazing facility. I really don't think I can do it justice, because it's not until you visit it that you realise what is actually involved. But I will try my best.
We started off looking at one of the rooms that's available to the families. This one in particular was an easy-access room on the ground floor. The people who designed this room have really thought about everything, because it had plenty of room for a wheelchair (including in the bathroom) and a vibrating plate that goes under the pillow for people who might be deaf - it vibrates should a fire alarm go off - clever hey? And if that wasn't already well thought out, the room had a hoist-like machine (built into the ceiling) for lifting people out of bed and carrying them through the bedroom and into the bathroom. All of the rooms also come with a phone that is directly linked up to the children's ward. Meaning families are only at the end of a phone, providing them with peace of mind, should they be needed when they aren't on the ward e.g. during the night.
The other more accessible rooms were similar, but without the large space, vibrating pillow and hoist. What we noticed straight away was how clean and homely all of these rooms were. They were sparkling! The volunteers who help to keep the rooms to the standard they are, should be extremely proud of themselves.
After the bedrooms, we had a look around the communal areas. Again, super, duper clean areas. These are great spaces that provide families with a place to chill out and socialise. I can only imagine what it's like being stuck within the same four walls all the time when you have an unwell child. This particular area one had a TV. There aren't any in the bedrooms as the charity tries to get families in the communal areas - we were informed that many friendships have been made from staying at the House.
All of the bedrooms and rooms around the House are decorated with art from a local college, which I thought added a lovely touch.
The kitchen was well equipped and designed (like the laundry room they also have) so that families can still do 'normal life' things like their washing and cooking. The local Kingsmill factory regularly drops off loaves of bread to the House, keeping the kitchen stocked up with necessities. There are also separate compartments in the cupboards and fridge for each individual bedroom, so that food doesn't get muddled up. Families are welcome to have takeaways brought back to and delivered to the House, which I was told makes the staff and volunteers very jelous!
At the end of the tour, me and Greg were so overwhelmed by the whole facility. I hope I've remembered the main points as the tour was so informative. I think I must have gone round most of it with my mouth open in shock at how wonderful they've made this place for families.
When our tour had finished, we were introduced to two mums (also from my home town) who have come up with the brilliant product that is Solar Buddies. Solar Buddies is a plastic applicator that you can pop any sun cream into, which your child can also easily use to apply their own sun cream. This is great for nursery and school, where teachers aren't allowed to apply it for them. I hope to do more with these guys in the near future!
We enjoyed some yummy food and BBQed burgers (well, Greg did as I'm a boring veggie), as well as take part in a raffle and have some fun with the photo booth.
It made me emotional looking around and seeing all of the families with their little ones. Families who have obviously been supported through hard times by the Ronald McDonald House Charity. Some babies still so tiny and others a bit more grown up.
I had the privilege of meeting one of the lovely mums, Emma, whose gorgeous 10 month old little boy, Sonny, was born without an oesophagus and had been in hospital since he was born. After many operations, some more serious than others, they were finally going home this week. I'm so happy for them, I can't begin to imagine the journey they've been on. What's even more special, Emma has agreed to star in this month's Day in the Life blog series, so I'll go into more detail with their story there.
As an independent charity, the Ronald McDonald House Charity relies on the support and generosity of volunteers, fundraisers and donors. Thanks to these people, the charity helps over 8,000 families per year. If you're looking to donate to or choose a charity to support, please do consider this one!
Thanks again to the charity for having me at your Fun Day (George and Greg really enjoyed themselves too!) and showing me around your Cardiff House. It's a great thing you do and an incredible place you have!