Families with very sick kids now have a home away from home at the Ronald McDonald House right across the street from Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital.
City and hospital officials joined representatives of the Ronald McDonald House Charites of Connecticut and Western Massachusetts Wednesday afternoon to cut the ribbon on a new 20-bedroom house at 860 Howard Ave.
The new house replaces the 12-bedroom Ronald McDonald House that was located at 501 George St. for more than 30 years and served more than 10,000 families.
Families like the Arnold family, who 10 years ago found themselves in need of the help of the Children’s Hospital and the house when Naomi was born prematurely at just one pound and five ounces.
Brett Arnold briefly choked back tears Wednesday s he stood before a crowded tent and talked a little bit about how his family came to be at the old Ronald McDonald House.
On June 16, 2010, Naomi decided to come into the world ahead of schedule. The Ledyard family, which at the time included 2-year-old Bennet, spent the entire summer here in New Haven waiting to take her home.
“I was as nervous as nervous could be,” Arnold recalled. “I had heard of the Ronald McDonald House but didn’t know much about it. I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to become involved.”
Naomi is now 7 and Bennet 9. They join their dad and mom Eileen in coming down each summer to host a dinner that includes a 25-pound turkey and all the trimmings for the families who are staying at the house as a way of giving back.
Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman Wednesday called the occasion an opportunity to remember the importance of community.
“This is more than a building,” she said. “It’s a home away from home. A place people can depend on when everything else is in question.”
Stocky Clark, executive director for Ronald McDonald House Charites of Connecticut and Western Massachusetts, said that the 20-bedroom house is the first phase of the project. The second phase is expected to add another 22 rooms for a total of 42. The first phase was built with the help of nearly $2 million in donations from the owners of area McDonalds restaurants and their patrons, along with a gift of about $2 million from Yale-New Haven Hospital.
He said the new Ronald McDonald House was designed specifically with families in mind. Visitors took a first look on Thursday.
Clark said the facility is built with the community in mind, including large conference room areas for events.