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At Ronald McDonald House, Home Is Where Your Child Is

April 30 2011 | by

Ronald McDonald with Children

Grand openings rarely move me. Sure, they may be festive, even lucrative (read: a retail grand opening with blockbuster sales). But never moving. Until now.

Today, the Ronald McDonald House of the Greater Hudson Valley in Valhalla, N.Y., opens its doors for the first time to families whose children are in the hospital due to serious illness or injury. A different, quieter kind of opening. But far more life-changing. Here’s how I know.

Our first home

When our son, Andrew Busenbark, was born with multiple congenital heart defects a little more than five years ago, he underwent a life-saving procedure at 24 hours old. Open-heart surgery at three days old. And a three-week recovery in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU).

Parents everywhere – with or without a child who has an illness, injury or disability – can imagine how nearly a lifetime of stress crammed itself into those few, short weeks. But I also must say, it was during this time that my husband and I found home – in the Ronald McDonald Family Room.

This is where we stayed while Andrew received his extraordinary care at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospitalat Westchester Medical Center. Then tucked away on the third floor of the hospital, it was here we found the comforts of home and peace in the knowledge that we were only steps away from our infant son as he fought for his life. It was here we connected with other families whose hearts were in the same place as ours – and a staff that felt more like family. The house that love built indeed.

A bigger, better home

For three years, the five-bedroom Family Room served more than 500 families from the Hudson Valley region. The Ronald McDonald House that opens today on the grounds of Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital has 12 bedrooms, accommodating almost triple the number of families served before. The new house offers families soothing guest bedrooms with private bathrooms, two fully equipped kitchens, a dining room, living room, play room, game room and laundry facilities.

Reaching for the sky like a castle in a fairy tale – in strong likeness to the children’s hospital – the new house looks magical on the outside and serene on the inside. No surprise there, given that Starwood Hotels and Resorts did all the interior design and decorating. The house will serve families from the Tri-State area and around the world whose children are hospitalized at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital or other local facilities. Three families will be the first to walk through these doors today – one of them comes all the way from the Caribbean Islands with their two-month-old baby who needs eye surgery.

A moving grand opening

The Ronald McDonald House calls itself a “home-away-from-home” for families of seriously ill or traumatically injured children. To my husband and to me – and I’m guessing to most people – home is where your family is, where your life is. Back in 2005, Andrew was here in the hospital. He was our family, our life. So this place in Valhalla – now known as the Ronald McDonald House of the Greater Hudson Valley – never felt like a home-away-from-home at all. To us, this was home.

And that’s why I am so truly moved by today’s official opening of this new Ronald McDonald House. To all the families who will find comfort and peace here for many years to come, I say, welcome home.


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