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Mobile Ronald McDonald House is serving our area

By By JOHN DILMORE JR. Publisher
The Ronald House of Mobile was built as much for the families of Escambia County as for those in the Greater Mobile area, according to the House's executive director, Brian Hartzell.
After all, the families of sick children from the Mobile area are able to go to their own homes and beds at night. It's the families from this area -- and other outlying areas -- that really make use of the House's services.
Those services? The Ronald McDonald House of Mobile -- like 233 others in 23 countries -- offers a home away from home for families whose children are receiving treatment at nearby hospitals.
This makes it easy and affordable for the families to be near their children during what is already a very difficult time.
Otherwise, they would be faced with either spending money on hotel accommodations, or driving long distances to and from their homes each night.
Overall, Hartzell said, the Ronald McDonald provides services for "30 to 35 families a year from Escambia County who are seeking medical care in Mobile." This in addition to the scores of other families from around the area.
Hartzell was in Brewton Monday speaking to the Brewton Rotary Club. As part of his presentation, he gave a brief history of the Ronald McDonald House, which included some information many probably aren't familiar with.
The first House was established in Philadelphia 30 years ago, in 1973. The incident that got the ball rolling involved Kim Hill, the child of Philadelphia Eagles football player Ken Hill and his wife Fran.
When Kim was diagnosed with leukemia and began treatment, the Hills got a chance to see the burden placed on other families of sick children -- those who weren't able to afford hotel rooms near where their kids were being treated.
This set in motion a chain of events that led to creation of the first House in Philadelphia, with McDonald's providing generous corporate sponsorship to allow for its creation.
That sponsorship continued with the creation of the second House, in Chicago, and has carried over to this day.
The Ronald McDonald House of Mobile was the 204th House created. It is located on Springhill Drive, near the entrance to the USA Children's and Women's Hospital.
The House has four full-time employees, and an annual budget of $273,000, Hartzell said.
The average stay for a family making use of the house's services is 32 days.
The House charges $12 a night for visitors, but waives that fee for those who aren't able to pay it.