May 11th is McHappy Day, when every McDonald's food and beverage purchase throughout the day supports families with sick children through the Ronald McDonald House Charities. Families are able to stay at the house for free.
Local resident Katharina Willson's daughter, Elizabeth, was scheduled for brain surgery in Winnipeg, and was able to stay at the Ronald McDonald house there. She recounts their experience.
"It was a good experience," says Willson. "It was very helpful. It was nice to have the house so close because, when our daughter was in the hospital, only one family parent could stay in the room with her overnight. So, you could either have one of us stay, or when she was doing well, we would both go to the Ronald McDonald House. It was nice to be able to get a good sleep in a comfortable bed, instead of trying to sleep in a chair that's not as comfortable."
Willson says the facility staff treated them quite wonderfully.
"They had coffee available, which you need when you're staying up late or getting up early," continues Willson. "They had meals available. Different places would provide meals and you just sign up. You didn't necessarily have to be there when the meal was served. If you signed up and weren't able to be there, they would put it aside for you. Each room has bins in the fridge that they would put your food in, and that was very helpful."
She notes these advantages were completely vital.
"We live an hour's drive away from the hospital, so to be able to stay there was phenomenal, "adds Willson. "Otherwise, we would be traveling back and forth, and there is the expense of gas and less time being able to be spent with our daughter while she was in the hospital."
Willson explains it's absolutely nice to know that Ronald McDonald House is there for you if you have to be near the hospital with one of your children.
"I met a couple of families while we were there that were using the Ronald McDonald House because they live far away," says Willson. "It is wonderful to know that there is something where you can go and just take time to relax and get good sleep. We did know about it before we went to this one in Winnipeg. We'd spent about two weeks in the one in Toronto, and the expectation of comparing them, they were the same. It was wonderful."
She explains as soon as they knew their daughter would be staying in the hospital for an extended amount of time, they simply had to put in an application to see if there was an empty room.
"If there is, then you automatically get the room," continues Willson. "We're just very grateful that it was available because when you're going through such a hard time, especially as our diagnosis was a complete surprise with our daughter, having that there and knowing that we could stay close was just a wonderful experience."