A Message from Marianne
Our Family Lounge Yesterday and Today
When I first walked into the Ronald McDonald House it was for a job interview. I am from a health care background and helping people is a driving force I try to live my life by. Three hours later, I was hooked on the Charity! The House and the mission of the Charity was amazing and reflected exactly what I try to do in my personal life. The thought that there was an opportunity to now be able to do this to a much larger audience was beyond exciting.
I joined the Ronald McDonald House Charity (RMHC) team in June 2017, tasked with the job of bringing the Hospital Programs dream to fruition. Many years of dedication and hard work went into the planning of the Hospital Programs at Oishei Children’s Hospital, and now the time had come to roll up our sleeves, pound the pavement and launch the Family Lounge and Happy Wheels Cart. With a group of 15 dedicated volunteers and a wide group of supporters, on November 13, 2017, the Family Lounge opened. I faced the launch day with cautious optimism. Although not a new Program for RMHC globally, it was something very new for our Buffalo location. I am not really sure how to describe my expectations for the day, but initially I really hoped that people within the hospital would want to come to the Lounge. We launched the room with the plan to start slowly and make sure that we could always provide what we promised.
There is a saying that goes “if you build it they will come” and that is the story of our Family Lounge. Now, almost 1 year later, we have a team of 50 amazing and dedicated volunteers; an awesome team that continues to grow each week. This past July we had over 900 visitors to our Lounge bringing the total visitors since opening to over 5,400.
I always knew the WNY community was a very giving and welcoming community, but the appreciation shown to us by our visitors, hospital staff and sponsors is overwhelming. I am awed and humbled by the visitors we meet every day at our Lounge. The families are going through major heartaches and yet they always take the time to thank us for being there and want to make sure we understand how important the Lounge visit is to them. They may thank us, but we applaud them, for their continued courage, strength and kindness to others during a very difficult time.
Being at the Family Lounge a good part of each week, I have witnessed and taken part in some of the most inspiring things: siblings with, in some cases, their patient brother or sister, playing games, coloring, snacking and laughing as they raid the toy shelves in the Lounge. Children making friends with the other children in the lounge, forgetting for a moment that they are in a hospital. Parents having a cup of coffee, meeting our volunteers and other parents, sharing stories and supporting each other. All the visitors feeling that our Lounge is a bit like home; a place they can feel just a bit better, raid the fridge and be themselves.
One of my most wonderful moments is when the whole family comes to our Lounge on discharge day and says, “We couldn’t go home without coming to the “room with the red shoes” just one more time.” There isn’t a day that I go home that I don’t feel we have made an impact on someone’s life, by just being there, listening and understanding. I am honored to be part of this wonderful Program.
Marianne Hoover, Hospital Programs Manager