In the months before Ginny was born, Rachel and I often commented about how much we like living in Gainesville. A lot of people that graduate from the University of Florida can’t wait to get out of town because they see it mostly as “just a college town.” College towns do have their drawbacks. When school is in session, it can take you a while to get a seat at a restaurant. If nightlife is your thing, you will have to put up with the occasional inebriated 20 year old girl crying outside a bar over something trivial – but that’s actually kind of entertaining. Other than that, Gainesville has everything a much bigger city has except crime and traffic. We love it.
Our experience with Ginny over the last month has only increased our love for Gainesville. Given her condition at birth - pulmonary hypertension combined with her heart defect - if she were born somewhere else she may not have survived. That little fact is not lost on Rachel and me. We realize how incredibly fortunate we are to live in Gainesville. Not everyone is this lucky.
Soon after Rachel and I got into the hospital with Ginny we started to become aware of the needs of the families around us. We immediately started trying to find ways to help. I've already mentioned Ginny’s starring role in a TV commercial for the March of Dimes. The UF March for Babies will be coming up this fall. We also did a radio spot for the Children’s Miracle Network, whose fundraiser will be coming up next month.
We’ve met families from all over Florida and the eastern US with children at Shands. Some of them – like the families of kids waiting for organ transplants – are here for months. Some families are actually here for the better part of a year. When you’re away from home for that long, even the cheapest of cheap hotels can be an incredible financial burden. I can’t imagine that on top of the burden of having a sick child.
One organization that helps families with sick children – I’m sure you’ve heard of them – is Ronald McDonald House Charities. Here in Gainesville, Ronald McDonald House Charities of North Central Florida does two things to support families. The first is the Ronald McDonald House of Gainesville, which has 30 rooms for families. The house is a few blocks away from Shands, but it is open to families with a child in the hospital, regardless of which hospital in town. The other is the Ronald McDonald Family Room here on the 10th floor of Shands. The room is a comfortable place for families to relax and have a snack or catch some rest without having to leave the hospital.
There is no charge for using the Ronald McDonald facilities, but they do ask for a $10 donation for each night a family stays at the house - though the true cost of their operation is much higher. Sadly, even this small amount is beyond the means of some families. We wanted to find some way to help these families.
This month Ronald McDonald House of North Central Florida is celebrating their 28th anniversary. As part of that celebration, we are helping them start a new room sponsorship program called Ginny’s Room.
Ginny’s Room will allow individuals, organizations, or corporations to sponsor a room in the Ronald McDonald House of Gainesville. All room sponsorships will be renewable on a 12 month basis for an annual gift starting at $5,000. The room could be a guest room, kitchen, administrative office, TV Rooms, playroom, living room, laundry room, or the courtyard.
These room sponsorships make a direct impact on the lives of the over 800 families that stay in the House each year by providing the necessary annual income RMHC of NCF needs to cover the approximate $100 a night cost to operate a single guest room.
Sponsorship includes a plaque with your name placed on your sponsored room, recognition in the Ronald McDonald House Charities’ newsletter and on their website, a special keepsake to display in your home or office, and the knowledge that you are helping a child and their family during a very difficult time.
Now, I know that times are tough – and $5,000 is a lot of money. If you are financially blessed enough and moved to do so, please sponsor a room at the Ronald McDonald House of Gainesville. If you are like me and you are motivated to help, but not quite financially able to give $5,000 right now, there is still a way you can help. In order to get Ginny’s Room started, Ronald McDonald House will put Ginny’s name on a room and allow our friends and family to contribute towards that room. Many people over the last month have asked us what they can do to help. As I’ve said before, we are lucky to have good jobs with gr eat benefits and a wonderful support system of friends and family. Here is a chance to help us help others.
A lot of you have already helped us in a lot of different ways and we could not have gotten this far without the prayers and support that all of you have provided. Although we are not home yet, we will be soon enough. Unfortunately another baby will take our place as soon as we leave, and they will need help too. Please help their family by donating a night in Ginny’s Room at the Ronald McDonald House. You can send donations to:
Ronald McDonald House Charities of North Central Florida (RMHCNCF)
1600 SW 14th Street
Gainesville, Florida 32608
or donate with a credit card at www.rmhcncf.org
Please note “Ginny’s Room” somewhere on the check or with the donation. If you have any questions, please contact Rebecca Haggerty-Williams at (352) 374-4404 or firstname.lastname@example.org.