LIHUE — Ronald McDonald House Charities of Hawaii made life a little better this summer for Cherisse Rita of Kalaheo.
“It’s helped me to make a situation more manageable than I could ever imagine,” said Rita, who has stayed at the Ronald McDonald House since July 19, when her daughter, Zyli Azay, was born 12 weeks prematurely.
“The staff is really welcoming and kind,” Rita said. “The people who end up in the house with you are all going through something a little different but have the mutual understanding that we’re all trying to get to our goal, to get our kids healthy.”
“It’s just a really positive environment to be able to heal and stay focused and do what we need to do to stay strong for our kids,” she added.
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Hawaii is celebrating three decades of helping local families with a 30th anniversary party 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. today at Kukui Grove Center.
The program provides a home-away-from-home on Oahu for dozens of Kauai families who travel there for treatment of a child’s illness or injury.
“We have served more than a thousand families from Kauai since opening,” said Jerri Chong, Hawaii’s Ronald McDonald House Charities president. “It would be so great if, through this event at the mall, we can reconnect with some of those families that have stayed at the house over the years. They are all part of our special ohana.”
Since opening in 1987, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Hawaii has provided homes for families of more than 11,300 children from the Neighbor Islands, Guam, Saipan and other Pacific islands who came to Honolulu for medical care. This has amounted to about 125,000 nights of lodging.
Hawaii’s Ronald McDonald House is in Manoa Valley, just minutes from medical care at major children’s hospitals. The 10-bedroom house is a haven where families can share concerns, spend quiet time with loved ones, and find comfort from others going through similar experiences.
“When a child on Kauai needs medical treatments for a life-threatening condition, an ocean separates them and their families from the specialized medical care they require,” Chong said. “We strive to be their family’s safety net while they are here, making sure they have a roof over their head, food to eat, transportation to and from the hospital and the emotional support they need.”
The house fosters an environment that encourages parent and family support. Some families have come for a short while. Others have had lengthy stays. Many have celebrated successful recoveries. Others could only cherish whatever time remained to them, Chong said.
“There’s been a lot of Kauai families that have come through the house,” Rita said. “I was so surprised by how many people have had the opportunity to use their service.”
The organization operates a second house with seven bedrooms on Oahu Avenue in Manoa Valley and the Ronald McDonald House Family Room at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children, which receives nearly 9,000 visitors each year.
Today, Ronald McDonald will perform a special show and pose for photos with folks. There will be activities for the keiki, prizes and musical performances by Mike Keale and Troy Waialeale.