‘Wel­come them, love them, serve them’

Ron­ald Mc­Don­ald House cel­e­brates open­ing of new­est home in city

The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT) - - OBITUARIES - By Mary O’Leary moleary@nhreg­is­ter.com @nhrmoleary on Twit­ter

NEW HAVEN » Ten thou­sand and count­ing.

That is the num­ber of fam­i­lies that have stayed at the Ron­ald Mc­Don­ald House in New Haven, which of­fi­cially cel­e­brated the open­ing of its new­est home with well­wish­ers fill­ing the grounds of the Howard Av­enue fa­cil­ity Wed­nes­day.

For the Arnold fam­ily of Led­yard, how­ever, their cel­e­bra­tion and grat­i­tude for the home, where fam­i­lies can stay when their chil­dren are hos­pi­tal­ized, has been a daily event for the past seven years.

It be­gan on June 16, 2010, when their daugh­ter, Naomi, was born pre­ma­turely at one pound, five ounces and was rushed to Yale New Haven Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal.

With 2-year-old Ben­net in tow, Brett and Eileen Arnold didn’t know what they were go­ing to do and where they would be able to live as Naomi be­gan her long hos­pi­tal stay.

As his voice cracked re­mem­ber­ing the worry and ten­sion around the hos­pi­tal­iza­tion, Brett Arnold said the Ron­ald Mc­Don­ald House, which was then on Ge­orge Street, be­came their home for three months un­til Naomi was able leave the hos­pi­tal.

“It was a tough sum­mer,” Brett Arnold re­called, but they could not have got­ten through it with­out the ex­cel­lent med­i­cal care Naomi re­ceived and the sup­port of the Ron­ald Mc­Don­ald House staff for them­selves and their tod­dler son.

As a thank you, the Arnolds, ev­ery year, cook a Thanksgiving din­ner in July for the lat­est fam­i­lies to pop­u­late the house, many of whom come from over­seas, and many of whom are low­in­come. The thanks on Wed­nes­day ex­tended to the staff at the house, par­tic­u­larly house man­ager Wendy Kirby and her team, as well as the hos­pi­tal, the 800 donors who raised $5.5 mil­lion and to Stocky Clark, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Ron­ald Mc­Don­ald House Char­i­ties of Con­necti­cut and Western Mas­sachusetts, un­der whose di­rec­tion the project ad­vanced.

Spe­cial thanks was given to Claire DiMartino, 82, who was one of the found­ing mem­bers of the house 32 years ago when she had a very sick child. DiMartino still re­mains a vol­un­teer and fund or­ga­nizer.

The idea be­hind the house was to al­low fam­i­lies to fo­cus on their crit­i­cally ill chil­dren when they are far from home and let the staff take away the day to day nor­mal liv­ing wor­ries that would crowd out that fo­cus.

Lo­cated across the street from the Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal, the new $11.5 mil­lion fa­cil­ity has 20 bed­rooms, a ca­pac­ity that will in­crease to 42 bed­rooms af­ter phases two and three are fin­ished.

It is de­signed by Svi­gals & Part­ners Ar­chi­tects with fam­i­lies in mind and fea­tures sun­rooms and fam­ily lounges, a chil­dren’s play­room, a teen room and fam­ily pa­tio with an out­door play­ground planned when they have the money.

The lo­cal Mc­Don­ald’s owner-op­er­a­tors of Con­necti­cut and Western Mas­sachusetts con­trib­uted $2 mil­lion, as they do­nated $1 for ev­ery pound of french fries they served. They also put out con­tain­ers to col­lect do­na­tions from the pub­lic.

New Haven Mayor Toni Harp said the wife of the city’s pen­sion fi­nance ad­viser had a baby while he was work­ing in New Haven. When their in­fant had to stay in the new­born unit for a few more days, they looked for ho­tel rooms but they were all filled in the city.

They ended up stay­ing at the Ron­ald Mc­Don­ald House.

“Their ex­pe­ri­ence was phe­nom­e­nal. That’s what this place is all about,” Harp

said.

While that was an ex­am­ple of a short stay, the av­er­age time a fam­ily will be at the house is three months, with one fam­ily stay­ing there for more than a year, as it in­volved a trans­plant. Do­na­tions are ac­cepted from the fam­ily, but they are not charged if they can’t af­ford to make one.

“We want to wel­come

them, love them, serve them a daily ra­tion of hope so that they can re­fill their reser­voir of op­ti­mism for the fu­ture. What mat­ters most is how well emo­tion­ally, phys­i­cally, fi­nan­cially th­ese fam­i­lies are pre­pared for the day they leave here. We want them to be to­gether ... and we want them to feel they have had a very pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence,” Clark said.

PETER HVIZDAK / HEARST ME­DIA CON­NECTI­CUT

Cut­ting the rib­bon Wed­nes­day for the new Ron­ald Mc­Don­ald House are, from left, Ben­net Arnold, 7, of Led­yard; Cynthia Sparer, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Yale New Haven Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal; Marna Borgstrom, pres­i­dent/ CEO Yale New Haven Health Sys­tem; Scott Tay­lor, pres­i­dent of the Con­necti­cut and Western Mas­sachusetts Mc­Don­ald’s Owner Op­er­a­tors As­so­ci­a­tion; Claire DiMartino of East Haven, founder of the Ron­ald Mc­Don­ald House of CT; Stocky Clark, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Ron­ald Mc­Don­ald House of CT; Ellen Good, pres­i­dent of RMH of CT Ad­vi­sory Board; and Michael Favreau, pres­i­dent of RMHCCTMA board of di­rec­tors.

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