June 8, 2020

Best Friends Day: Healing Together at RMHC

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Among the many things that families with a sick child need are friends who know what they are going through.

When families learn their child is sick and must be hospitalized, life as they know it changes overnight. Many families must travel long distances for their child to receive medical treatment, requiring them to leave their homes, families, jobs and community support at a time when they need them the most.

No matter where our families have travelled from, Ronald McDonald Houses and Family Rooms across Canada is there for families, allowing them to stay close together during a difficult and stressful time in their lives. It is through this shared experience that we see some of the strongest bonds and friendships form amongst children and family caregivers. In fact, research shows that children at a Ronald McDonald House develop stronger bonds of friendship in their new environment compared to families staying at hotels.[1]

At RMHC, parents of a sick child can come together, connect and confide in each other about their child’s healing journey – understanding each other in a way that only parents of a sick child can.

The medical community acknowledges the role RMHC plays in supporting the social needs of families with sick children: 73.4% of hospital administrators agreed that their Ronald McDonald House helped families to receive much-needed social support.[2]

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Natalia William, Emily Clarke, Best Friends at RMHC NL

Spotlighting friendships and connections made at RMHC across Canada

Kayla Ash and Christina Dingwell – RMHC Newfoundland & Labrador

They're the same age, from the same town, attend the same school, and battled the same cancer together. Kayla Ash and Christina Dingwell are from Goose Bay, Labrador and stayed at the Ronald McDonald House in St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador (over 1,500 KMs away from home) with their dads to receive treatment at the nearby hospital.

Although from the same small town, Kayla and Christina didn’t know each other well at the beginning, but their experience brought them much closer together.

“It helps to know that someone is right there that understands almost exactly what you are going though,” said Mike Ash, Kayla’s Dad. “They both leaned on each other quite a lot to get through their battle.”

About their friendship, Christina shared, “We started watching movies together and hanging out more. Kayla is a really nice friend and it’s good to have her here with me,” Kayla said. “She’s good to talk to; you can talk to her about anything. She’s a good person.” 

Abby and Samantha – RMHC BC & Yukon

On most afternoons, Abby Cavanaugh and Samantha Frank can be found doing typical teenager things: hanging out, talking, joking and sometimes sitting in companionable silence with their heads buried in their phones.

But they aren’t typical teenagers; Abby and Sam are both fighting cancers that affect their bone marrow; the two girls underwent bone marrow transplants less than two months apart and quickly became friends while staying near the hospital at RMHC BC.

Abby went through her transplant first and is a source of inspiration and courage for Sam, who felt self-conscious about losing her hair as side effect of her treatment. After Sam saw Abby walk around the House without a toque, it gave her the confidence to take her own toque off more and more.

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Abby Cavanaugh and Samantha Frank and their moms, RMHC BC

Despite our current COVID-19 reality, Ronald McDonald Houses continue to find ways to keep families safely connected and supporting one another. In London, Ontario at RMHC Southwestern Ontario, families are staying connected with each other through a chalkboard where they can share messages of hope and support, even when they’re apart.

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The Bates Family – RMHC Manitoba

“While the pandemic has limited the amount of time families can be in close contact with each other or share a meal together, they are in this journey and fight together,” shared Wendy Galagan, CEO, RMHC Manitoba. “I would go so far as to say their bonds are stronger because of it.”

RMHC Manitoba recently welcomed back the Bates families, who were staying at the Manitoba house through the early weeks of COVID-19 and were cleared to go home. They are now back and continue to receive support from RMHC.

“Some of the same families are here since they left. For them, it is like seeing old friends again,” Wendy added.

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The Bates Family, RMHC Manitoba

[1]Ronald McDonald Houses Help Improve Children’s and Caregivers’ Quality of Life. Sanchez et al., 2014

[2]Hospital leadership perspectives on the contributions of Ronald McDonald Houses. Lantz et al.,2015

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