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SLC Ronald McDonald House Expands to Accommodate More Families

Andrea Smardon
Heather Jeppsen stayed at the Ronald McDonald House when her son Gavin was being treated for a heart condition. In this photo, she tours the new facility with her son who is doing well.

The Ronald McDonald House in Salt Lake City has completed an expansion, so more parents with seriously ill children will be able to stay.  There are not only more beds, but more features to accommodate families as healthcare delivery evolves in Utah.

“We wanted families when they walked in to feel like they were entering a very different place than the hospital,” says Carrie Romano, Executive Director of Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Intermountain Area. “We wanted them to be greeted with a bright beautiful wall. As you can see, it says the house that love built.”

“The House that Love Built” is what they called their capital campaign to raise 11 million dollars from private donors, corporations, and foundations, to enlarge their space on South Temple Street.

“Utah - and Salt Lake in particular - has developed world-class pediatric medical care, and as a consequence, we have thousands of families who are traveling to our community to access specialty pediatric care, and it’s often life-saving care for their children,” Romano says. “While they’re here, we offer them a home away from home.”  But Romano says in 2013 nearly 700 families were turned away because they didn’t enough room. Not only has the demand grown, but there’s been a shift in healthcare delivery since the original house built 25 years ago. Now many children – even with life-threatening illnesses - are treated as outpatients.

“In the original house, there wasn’t a lot of play space or children’s space built out because they didn’t have kids there, and now it's much more common for us to have children, whether that’s the patient or the siblings of the patient because the families may be here for months on end,” Romano says.

To accommodate them, the new facility has a larger kitchen, expanded play area, a game room, and a theater room.  For parents, there is also an exercise room and a sanctuary. Heather Jeppsen stayed in the original facility in 2011 when her son was being treated for a heart condition at Primary Children’s Hospital.

"It just gave us peace to know that we had somewhere to go, that we were able to stay close," Jeppsen says. “I’ll tell you what, there are a lot of families that could use this help, so it’s awesome what they’re doing.”

The 40,000 square foot expansion will more than double the number of rooms available. The new wing will be open April 14th.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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