Major donors and future volunteers for the new Ronald McDonald House near Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield got a sneak peek Saturday at the construction progress of the 12-family facility nearly seven months before it will open.
The "Hands and Hearts Mid Construction Celebration" was held because of the interest among those in the community who've embraced the $6.2 million project, said Katie Allabough, who will be its director when it opens next Valentine's Day.
This fifth location for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana was chosen after Central DuPage Hospital and its parent company Cadence Health reached out, said Jim DeMaria, vice president of development for Ronald McDonald House.
Though directly across the street from Central DuPage Hospital, it's also expected to serve families of child patients at Delnor Hospital in Geneva and ProCure Treatment Centers in Warrenville.
All the Ronald McDonald House locations in the region are aimed at providing housing at a low cost -- or no cost at all -- for families living more than 10 miles from their child's treatment facility.
In addition to convenience and affordability, the houses also bring families in similar situations together for mutual support. "It's more than a place to stay; it's a community," Allabough said.
Each Ronald McDonald House fits into its specific community in terms of both capacity and architecture, DeMaria said. The 14-story, 86-room location in Chicago is the biggest in the world. The Winfield location will look much more like a large country home, inside and out.
Saturday's event was open to corporate and individual donors of at least $1,000. Allabough expected about 160 people during the three-hour open house.
Julie Evans of Glen Ellyn said her own experiences showed her the importance of actively supporting such an enterprise in the area. Though her son, Miles, was born at Central DuPage Hospital 14 years ago, he required several surgeries during his early years that took place at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn. She and her husband were able to take advantage of a low-cost apartment near the hospital to take turns being near Miles all the time.
As welcome as that was, Ronald McDonald House would have provided a better environment if it had been available to them at the time, Evans said.
"It's very stressful to have your child hospitalized," she said. "The whole thing about the community of the (Ronald McDonald) house was absent with the apartment."
She said Miles, who will be a freshman at Glenbard West High School this fall, will join her as a volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House in Winfield.
Guests Saturday were invited to write personalized messages on the bare cement of the house's living room before the rest of the floor is completed on top. Allabough said donors can always return to the spot where they left their message and remember it beneath their feet.
Evans chose to write the words "Strength" and "Hope."
"Those two words really summarize the whole experience," she said. "Patients need strength and families need strength, but hope is always there at the end."