Opened in December of 1982, RMHC is celebrating its 41st year in Fargo, providing housing and support for families with hospitalized children. The organization operates two main programs. The first is a Ronald McDonald House, akin to a hotel, open to families with children in the hospital, particularly those from outside the Fargo-Moorhead area. Families are connected with Ronald McDonald House through referrals from hospitals such as Sanford, Essentia, and Prairie St. John’s.
Each family has its own guest room and access to a large kitchen. Volunteers help cook meals and bake goods for the families. The house also features a playroom, game room, exercise room, and other amenities to create a home-like environment. Families can stay as long as necessary without charge, though donations are welcome. In fact, about 90% of families stay for free.
The second program is the Ronald McDonald Family Room within the neonatal intensive care unit at Essentia Health. It serves as an expanded waiting room with a shower, kitchenette, play area, and lounge. Volunteers stock the room with snacks and coffee and are available to answer questions and offer support to those with a child in the hospital.
The Ronald McDonald House ensures families can stay together, rest and recharge to remain strong for their child, interact with families going through similar experiences, communicate with their child’s medical team, enjoy homecooked meals, and receive compassionate hospitality from staff and volunteers. They can focus on the health of their child, rather than grocery shopping, cleaning, or cooking meals. This is all done to reduce stress and financial burden when families must travel far from home to access medical care for their child.
One of the greatest partnerships RMHC has is its wonderful volunteers. Over 2,000 volunteers a year, consisting of businesses, churches, families, and more help out by making meals, baking goods, cleaning, and outdoor projects. Some of these individuals come in every week.
“These regular volunteers really add to our capacity,” CEO Jill Christopher said. “The hours they put in equals more than two additional full-time staff members. It is amazing!”
Jill also noted that while there may be a lot of negative things in media and the news, her perspective is to focus on the good that is in the world. She believes there is much of it to share, especially what she’s able to experience every day through Ronald McDonald House and the continual generosity of volunteers and the community.
3 things you may not know about Ronald McDonald House
- Because McDonald’s is a franchise, every McDonald’s is individually owned. This ensures that when you donate through Round Up or the donation boxes in-store, your money stays right here in Fargo to support our Ronald McDonald House.
2. Every child that stays at the Ronald McDonald House gets to visit the “Magic Room.” A secret password opens the door to a room filled with toys and surprises, where they can pick out a special one to keep.
3. For families with infants in the NICU, Ronald McDonald House has a “Petite Boutique,” which offers clothes, blankets, diapers, and other supplies for their new little one.
When asked about her favorite part of being CEO of Ronald McDonald House in Fargo, Jill broke it down into two aspects. The first is witnessing the immense generosity of people from all walks of life. This experience offers a refreshing contrast to the often negative news, showcasing the goodness in the world demonstrated by individuals of all ages and generations. “This aspect of the job is incredibly fulfilling for me,” she said.
Her second favorite part is observing families leaving the hospital with their children. While it may seem ordinary, for families who have endured prolonged hospital stays due to serious conditions like cancer, the moment of departure is profoundly significant. The joy of these families, especially when they ring the bell signaling their departure, is heartwarming. It’s particularly moving to see them proudly introduce their baby to the staff, a moment many take for granted in normal circumstances. “This experience, being a small part of these families’ journey, is deeply gratifying,” she said.
Save the date!
The two biggest fundraising events that Ronald McDonald House hosts are Giving Hearts Day as well as the Sweetheart Ball, which is on February 10 at the Delta Hotel in Fargo. The event will include dinner, dancing, a live silent auction, and more.
About Jill Christopher
Jill Chrostopher’s story with Ronald McDonald House goes back to when her nephew’s family was receiving support while he was getting a kidney transplant. Jill fell in love with the organization so much that she joined the board in 2008 and later became CEO in 2010, where she has proudly served for over 13 years. “The wonderful part of my job is I get to see the amazing generosity of this community,” she said. “We are super fortunate to live in such a giving city. I get to go out, visit with people, and make sure that we’re raising money.”
How to give to Ronald McDonald House
On the McDonald’s app or in the drive-thru, customers can choose to donate $1 or $5 to Ronald McDonald House, and all of the donations go straight to the house in Fargo. Want to donate your time? Jill and her team are always eager to welcome any volunteers to help out so that they can better serve the families who are in their care.