Durham’s Ronald McDonald House: A house of blessings

The Ronald McDonald House, located on 506 Alexander Ave in Durham. (Staff photo by Julian Keeler)


 

In 1973, when Philadelphia Eagles tight end Fred Hill learned about his daughter’s leukemia diagnosis, he and his wife noticed the inconveniences parents had to go through to support their sick child while in the hospital. They teamed up with a local McDonalds to purchase and restore a house near the hospital where these families could stay, and the first Ronald McDonald House was born.

Josh (right) prepares to return home after a successful transplant for leukemia. (Staff photo by Julian Keeler)

Durham’s Ronald McDonald house was the first in North Carolina.

It has been a staple in the community for 37 years, known for the warm hospitality they offer guests and visitors. Located on 506 Alexander Ave., the house in Durham opened its doors on Feb. 1, 1980. It was the 13th one built in the nation.

Mitzi Viola has been the Director of Development at the Durham location for five years. She’s in charge of fundraising, marketing, and external relations.

“It’s a blessing to be here,” Viola said. “When I come to work I feel very grateful for this opportunity. I look at it as more of a calling than a job.”

The house offers a program called the Ronald McDonald Family Room. The family rooms provide housing and meals for around 69 families on a nightly basis.

Most families who stay in the home have traveled from other states and possibly other countries. The Durham location partners with Duke University Hospital.

“Our respite programs allow us to serve almost 40,000 families a year,” Viola said. “The family of every pediatric patient is welcome to come to the family room to receive food, support, take a shower, do laundry, or whatever they may need to make things a bit easier on them.”

The Ronald McDonald House Charities are big on volunteering and community service. They offer many volunteer jobs for schools, teams, organizations, and everyday citizens to come help and be a part of something special.

“We have volunteer groups that come in to cook, groups that volunteer to come clean, volunteer groups that do arts and crafts,” Viola explained. “There are so many ways to get involved here and we really appreciate the help.”

The Durham Ronald McDonald House has aided many families nationally but also many in the local community as well. The number of people they build relationships with is amazing.

“It’s wonderful being a part of these journeys that people are on,” Viola said. “No one expects for their child to be ill, and for us to be present, stand witness, and be supportive to those families is really an honor.”

There are now 350 Ronald McDonald houses worldwide.

 

Sources: https://www.rmhdurhamwake.org/

Caption: Josh (right) prepares to return home after a successful transplant for leukemia. (Staff photo by Julian Keeler)

The Ronald McDonald House, located on 506 Alexander Ave in Durham. (Staff photo by Julian Keeler)

 

 

Julian Keeler of Raleigh is a junior journalism major at NCCU. This fall he is serving as a staff writer-photographer for the Durham VOICE