Friday, January 19, 2018
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20171228 Ronald McDonald House Baby Roger Cardozo Raymondville 2017A report on baby Roger's recovery was brought by the Cardozo family of Raymondville when they visited Ronald McDonald House in Harlingen after using its facilities for a time.

The mission of the Valley’s Ronald McDonald House (RMH) is to allow parents and family to remain close by while a child is seriously ill in a hospital in Harlingen, one of only 288 facilities worldwide.

The aim of RMH Charities-RGV (RMHC) is to have a place for parents to stay and also receive emotional support during a difficult time, says Cynthia Guerra, the house’s executive director. RMH serves families of newborn babies to those with children up to age 21. They also provide services to high-risk pregnancy women as long as they have someone 18 years or older with them.

One of the favorite stories of help for Guerra is that of the first baby at the house, Andrea Pedraza, who with her parents, spent eight months here as her twin sister, Angelica, fought complications at both nearby Valley Baptist Medical Center and at Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Brownsville before passing away.

“Andrea is very special to all of us because she and her sister weighed only one and a half pounds at birth,” Guerra said. “Today at the age of 18, Andrea is at Texas A&M University with plans of becoming a pediatric surgeon. She comes to volunteer (at RMH) and will be honored at our 19th annual Wild Game Feast on March 3 next year.”

20171228 Ronald McDonald House Jae Javi Vanessa baking SHOWVolunteers play an important role in the Ronald McDonald House operation. Baking goodies for those staying at the house were (from left) Jae, Javi and Vanessa.

The fund-raising dinner will mark the 20th anniversary of the founding of RMH. And the event slated at the adjacent Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine will also honor the Frank Boggus family, who along with generous friends, were responsible for establishing Ronald McDonald House.

More than 90 percent of families needing accommodations come from the four-county area of the Rio Grande Valley. And the vast majority receive the stay free, as they are unable to pay the normal $10 a night rate. Families need to be referred by an area hospital’s social services department. But physicians, nurses, social workers or even a parent of a sick child can also seek referral help through a hospital to use RMH.

Most of the families served have children who are patients at Valley Baptist Medical Center, which provided the land for Ronald McDonald House at 1720 Treasure Hills Blvd. In addition to six bedrooms, the 9,000 square foot facility has a common area of a living room, dining, laundry, family/game, play and quiet rooms, plus a kitchen, pantry, storage and fenced backyard. Some food staples are provided, but families can make their own meals as well.

Occupancy normally averages between three and four families a week. Stays last from a day to as much as several months, until the child is well enough to be released from the hospital. RMH has provided more than 14,100 nights of lodging for 3,500 families over the years.

20171228 Ronald McDonald House IMG 0627A family who stayed at Ronald McDonald House returned recently to update the staff on how their child is doing since being released from the hospital.

In addition, RMH Charities has established a family room at Valley Baptist and a similar room at Edinburg Children’s Hospital for those needing a rest break. The family rooms are open between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. The family suite in the Harlingen hospital has an attached bedroom, while the Edinburg facility, created in 2009, has three attached bedrooms. Both include a kitchen, living room and food provisions. More than 400 families a month on average use the family suites.

RMH Charities-RGV is responsible for the operation and funding to meet the needs of families with ill children, using a variety of avenues of support. All funding remains for local use.

Continuing financial support has come from the founding partner McDonald Restaurants in the Rio Grande Valley. It accounts for about a quarter of the approximate $450,000 operating budget of RMH Charities.

Also, Guerra said, businesses, corporations, foundations and individuals help support the program. She cited Southwest Airlines for regular support of many of the RMH events, especially the recent Light the House of holiday decorating that featured school students of various ages singing Christmas carols, and other entertainment. There were about 200 guests packed inside due to the inclement weather outside.

Volunteers are the heart of RMH, ranging from secondary and college students to older adults, the director said. They help in administration, at the reception desk, help clean floors, dust, wash windows, bake cookies or cakes and cook meals for future use by families. Volunteers 18 and older are always needed at the family rooms at the two hospitals as well. Some help with the fundraising events too, including the annual dinner and a golf tournament. More that 5,700 volunteer hours were logged with RMH Charities.

20171228 Ronald McDonald House SWA Mcd PeterWinter Texans from some of the parks have made quilts, crocheted baby blankets and made baby caps, some of which are shared with the hospital’s maternity and pediatric units. Many of those involved have come from Ronald’s Angels at Fun N Sun Resort in San Benito, Tip-O-Texas RV Resort and Texas Trails RV Resort, both in Pharr, and Gateway Ladies Quilters of Raymondville.

The director points out, “We are blessed with an abundance of gifts from complete strangers who drop off canned goods, toiletries, pull tabs, new and used clothing that generate funds for us.”

The pull tabs from aluminum pop cans are collected in a competition among invited Valley elementary schools. The school with the most tabs wins a visit from Ronald McDonald to present his magic show. RMH Charities also has a clothing donation program with a Dallas company that places boxes at businesses and then collects the wearable items, for which a percentage is paid.

“Near or far, everyone wants to give back to help others,” Guerra says, “and we’re blessed that because of the generosity of our donors we can keep families close during their time of need.”

To find out more about Ronald McDonald House, its services, donations and volunteering, check the website at or call 956-412-7200. Those wanting to volunteer can also stop by Ronald McDonald House in Harlingen or fill out an application at the website.

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