A mural of Ronald McDonald shows the height of children who have stayed at the Ronald McDonald House, 620 S. 38th Ave., charting how they have grown during their recovery. The mural was on display to the public during an open house Saturday. (Photo by Scott Stewart)
Ronald McDonald House
Expansion Doubles Capacity, Drops Waitlist
By Scott Stewart
The Daily Record
The Ronald McDonald House in Omaha was forced to turn away about 1,600 families over the past two years.
A recently completed remodeling and expansion project, which doubled the Omaha house’s capacity, should eliminate the nonprofit’s waitlist and help provide assistance to even more families.
Executive Director Lindsey Rai Kortan said the staff wants to leave families more whole than when they arrive, and they want to be able to provide services to anyone seeking their support.
“Our intention is to not have to turn families away,” Kortan said.
The $10.3 million project has added 20,000 square feet, including 20 new guest rooms, renovating 18,000 square feet, Kortan said. An in-house treatment center is still being finished. The renovated and new spaces were all on display Saturday during a public open house and community fair.
The Ronald McDonald House in Omaha opened in 1994 with 10 guest rooms, and it doubled its capacity to 20 in 2000. Kortan said the staff reached out to area hospitals about future expansion, so the expanded space should be adequate for the next 25 years.
A typical stay is between 30 to 45 days, but that’s an average that includes overnight stays to longer hauls, exceeding a year. A lot of families are spending 10 to 15 months residing at the house.
“It’s longer than most other chapters in the United States, just given the treatment schedule that these kiddos have,” Kortan said.
Many patients at the Omaha house are seeking treatment for small bowel conditions, and Nebraska Medicine is a national leader in transplant and rehabilitation for those conditions, drawing families from across the U.S.
The Omaha facility is the first Ronald McDonald House in the country to have an in-house medical treatment center. The 3,000-square-foot center will be operated independently by several area medical partners.
The project also added office space for the nonprofit Angels Among Us, which provides financial support to many families at the house.
David F. Mercer, an organ transplant surgeon for Nebraska Medicine and current board president for the Ronald McDonald House Charities, said that the house also welcomes new ideas.
“This is a center of innovation. If you can come up with other ideas, if you can help us, we can make it a reality,” Mercer said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony last week, according to a release.
Kortan said that the Ronald McDonald House is teaming up with WhyArts, Completely KIDS and several other community partners. She said she appreciated the efforts the charity’s board chairman, J. Scott Searl, an attorney at Baird Holm who led the nonprofit through legal hurdles throughout the project.
Find more information on the Ronald McDonald House Charities at makeitorindary.com. Find more on how to give to the house, including volunteering, monetary donations and in-kind gifts of new materials, at rmhcomaha.org.
Alex Benson, community philanthropy coordinator, gives a tour of the recently renovated and expanded Ronald McDonald House. (Photo by Scott Stewart)