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August 23, 2011

Andrew Tee, Ronald McDonald House Charity, 23rd August 2011

Andrew is the fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House based at the Children’s Hospital at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. The house has 18 ensuite family bedrooms and provides accommodation for families of children being treated at and staying at the hospital. There are 14 Ronald McDonald houses in the UK, providing over 400 bedrooms for families, most of which are full every night.

The charity was formed in 1974 in Philadelphia and there are now more than 400 Ronald McDonald Houses across the world, in 56 countries. The first house opened in the UK in 1990 next to Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in London.

The house in Oxford was opened in 2007 and has supported over 3,500 families since then. It is always full and often has a waiting list. The average stay is 7 – 10 days but one family stayed for 15 months. The house is seconds away from the children’s wards and there is a telephone in each room so families can always be contacted by the ward staff. The house and the others like it around the country enable the families of sick children to stay close to their child while having some normality, keeping the family together and enabling them to cook family meals and to keep some routine in their lives. The Oxford house was the first built within a hospital, most are a short walk away from the hospital. When the new Children’s Hospital was built, the charity was invited to set up a new house there.

Hospitals often provide a sofa bed next to most children’s beds on wards, but this is only for one parent and is not possible in high dependency wards. So there is clearly a need for this free family accommodation in the houses.

There are 6 staff at the house. Andrew moved from being the Assistant Manager to the Fundraising position 12 months ago. Other Ronald McDonald houses around the country are following this model and recruiting full time fundraisers.

The McDonald’s restaurant corporation is the charity’s biggest supporter: £2.7 million was raised last year just from the collection boxes at the tills in McDonald’s restaurants. This funding is used to build new houses, then local fundraising is required for ongoing running costs. The central charity office also works to secure large grants and donations from foundations and charities for new building projects.

It costs £185,000/year to run the Oxford house. Andrew told us about some of the recent fundraising efforts: £18,000 was raised by 9 people who ran the Rome marathon last year; 40 people abseiled down the Women’s Centre at the JR Hospital; and the charity has an annual black tie dinner.

Andrew explained that one of the biggest hurdles is that people haven’t heard of the Ronald McDonald houses, so there is lots to do to boost the profile. The relationship between the restaurant chain and the charity is different in the UK to that in all other countries around the world. This year is the first year that the corporation has mentioned the charity in its publicity: The houses are under R in the current A-Z publicity campaign. The local McDonald’s restaurants are all franchises and have been supportive of the charity.

There is no NHS funding for the charity but hospitals around the UK have been asking the charity to build houses to support the families of their patients in the children’s wards. The aim is to build a house next to each hospital.

Andrew was keen to come along to Pooh Sticks in 2012 so we hope that we will be able to have some joint fundraising efforts there. And we are hoping for a second year of good weather.

There’s a great 2 ½ minute cartoon about the charity on their website (at the foot of this page)

Read the Summer 2011 newsletter for the Oxford Ronald McDonald House.