McDonald House: A home away from home

DANVILLE- The Ronald McDonald House of Danville has been providing a home away from home to families with ill children for 35 years.

The house is located on the Geisinger Medical Center campus, 100 N. Academy Ave. and Trembulak Way, where many of the children are receiving medical attention at the Janet Weis Children’s Hospital.

It allows for families to stay together while their child receives hospital treatment.

“It’s a safe haven for them to be a family together, to keep the family unit,” executive director Mike Turlis said.

Instead of families worrying about hotel and restaurant costs, the house is able to provide everything they need in a welcoming environment.

“The house becomes a special place when (families) walk through the doors,” he said.

People can stay in there as long they need to depending on the need of the child, he said.

The house has 19 bedrooms with private bathrooms, has 59 beds available, a kitchen, laundry room, living room, sunroom, playroom, TV rooms, a patio and playground.

It serves 65 counties in Pennsylvania as well as families from other states and around the world.

“We’re here for the families here to help them and give them stability for something we can’t begin to imagine what they’re going through,” development officer Renee Gerringer said.

To continue to provide support for families, the organization is putting in a family room by the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Geisinger for people to take a nap, get a snack or clear their head while remaining close to their child.

“The family room is to keep families close, keep them within the hospital facility and keep them in the comfort of the house in a hospital setting,” she said.

Sometimes the five minute walk from the house to the hospital is too long, the parents need to be by the child’s side, she said.

The room will have two sleeping rooms, a bathroom, private sitting room, kitchenette and a private meditation room.

Turlis said they interviewed families for two years asking what they would like to see in a facility. Many of them said they wanted a place to quickly eat, sleep and gather their thoughts and still be near their child.

Since it is going to be their room, they wanted to make sure their needs are met, he said.

The $880,000 project will be completed in spring 2017.

Besides providing lodging and moral support to families, the organization holds Camp Dost for the children and a sibling each July at Camp Victory in Millville.

“At camp they’re not looked at as ill children, they’re looked at as just children,” he said.

It is a chance for a kid to be a kid by participating in activities like crafts, swimming and archery in a safe environment, he said.

This past summer 70 children who participated in the full week of camp and five who attended the 24-hour camp.

Reflecting on the work the organization does, Tulis said he has the utmost respect for the families who walk into the house. They deal with the challenging time in their lives through compassion and humor.

“It’s amazing that when the families are here how they all come together,” he said.

“We’re here for the families, it’s why we exist,” Gerringer said.

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