Monday, June 17, 2024

Ronald McDonald House Breaks Ground in Shreveport-Bossier

by Stacey Tinsley
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By Stacey Tinsley/Press-Tribune

Shreveport, Louisiana – The Ronald McDonald House, a charity providing a free haven for families of critically ill hospitalized children, broke ground for the highly anticipated Ronald McDonald House Shreveport-Bossier in Shreveport on Wednesday, April 3, 2024.

“Over the years, we at Willis Knighton have seen the reality of what it means to have a child in the hospital. Whether that’s a premature baby in our NICU or a pediatric patient being cared for in our system, every day in our local medical facilities, families are coming from throughout the region to receive advanced medical care right here in Shreveport. So, Shreveport has become a medical referral center in this region. When the Ronald McDonald House approached us about the opportunity to build a house here in Shreveport, we definitely understood the need for that,” said Jaf Fielder, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Willis Knighton (WK) Health.

“Since Willis-Knighton has been providing care to the citizens in this area for the last 100 years, our board of trustees enthusiastically supported the decision to partner with the Ronald McDonald House to offer the land for this project,” Fielder added.

Ronald McDonald House Shreveport-Bossier will include 20 private Family Suites and also provide daytime use for local families not staying with us. The three-story, 22,000-square-foot House, located on the campus of Willis-Knighton Health’s Women’s and Children’s hospital in Southwest Shreveport, will serve families with a seriously ill or injured child in any Shreveport hospital. By keeping them together during an already difficult time, the House removes barriers to life-saving care for children and eases financial burdens.

The House is scheduled to open in 2025.

How it Started:

When an unlikely partnership was formed in Philadelphia in 1974 between an NFL team, a children’s hospital, and a restaurant chain, none of its members could have imagined that their dream of a home away from home for families of seriously ill children would grow to become an international phenomenon.

They simply wanted to create a place where parents of sick children could be with others who understood each other’s situations and provide emotional support. The seeds of the partnership were planted when Kim Hill, the 3-year-old daughter of Philadelphia Eagles tight end Fred Hill, was diagnosed with leukemia. Hill and his wife camped out on hospital chairs and benches, ate food from vending machines, and did all they could to keep Kim from seeing their sadness, exhaustion, and frustration.

All around them, the Hills saw other parents doing exactly the same thing. They learned that many of the families had traveled great distances to bring their children to the medical facility, but the high cost of hotel rooms was prohibitive. They continued to think, “There has to be a happy medium.” Hill rallied the support of his teammates to raise funds to help other families experiencing the same emotional and financial traumas as his own. Through the Philadelphia Eagles’ general manager, Jim Murray, the team offered its support to Dr. Audrey Evans, head of the pediatric oncology unit at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. It was Dr. Evans’ dream for a house that could serve as a temporary residence for families of the children being treated at her hospital that led to the first Ronald McDonald House being built. McDonald’s Restaurant owner/operators in Philadelphia made the House possible, donating proceeds from the sale of shamrock shakes at their restaurants. Eventually, Ronald McDonald House Charities was officially established in memory of McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc, a strong advocate for children.

Currently, there are more than 365 Ronald McDonald Houses in more than 43 countries and regions around the world.

Stacey Tinsley/Press-Tribune – Jaf Fielder, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Willis Knighton (WK) Health, speaks during the groundbreaking event for the Ronald McDonald House Shreveport-Bossier on Wednesday April 3, 2024.

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