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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Ronald McDonald House to be Built


Families of critically-ill children will have a place to stay

In 2021, Minden’s Serena Gray – like many people – tested positive for Covid and was hospitalized in Shreveport. But it wasn’t just Gray’s health at risk. She was 22 weeks’ pregnant.

Four weeks into Gray’s hospital stay, her unborn child’s heart and oxygen rates began to drop.

Doctors performed an emergency C-section. Isaac was born 10 weeks premature.

Mom and son are now home and healthy.

But for Serena’s husband, Joel, it was a terrifying – and exhausting – time.

“Before Isaac was born, I stayed two of the four weeks in a hotel,” Joel said. “I was traveling back and forth from Minden pretty much every day, if not twice a day, trying to get clothes, take showers and eat.”

If the situation wasn’t stressful enough, Isaac was sent to a different hospital from where his mother was.

“Luckily, I had a friend who gave me his motor home and coordinated with (one of the hospitals). They allowed me to put the motor home in their parking lot. I stayed there for almost two months.

If there had been a Ronald McDonald House in the area, Joel would have had a place to sleep and eat that felt more like home.

“It would have changed my whole story. I wouldn’t have been living in a motor home.

I would have been able to get support from people in the same situation. I would have had transportation back and forth if I needed it. I would have had Wi-Fi access to get work done for my job. It would have been a lifechanging experience if it was here.”

Optimism is high that northwest Louisiana’s first Ronald McDonald House will be built. $3.7 million has been raised for the construction of the House, which would be located across the street from the Willis- Knighton South Campus on West Bert Kouns Industrial Loop in Shreveport. Ten million dollars is needed to open the House, including $8 million for construction and three years of operating expenses.

“The way this has gone in six short months is just amazing,” said Janell Mason, chief executive officer of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Arkansas. “I’ve done capital campaigns before, and I’ve watched how they go. This one got off to a great start. We’re talking with foundations and donors of all sizes. We need gifts of every size. Obviously, we want the bigger gifts, but we’re going to give the community an opportunity to be a part of this project.”

There are more than 180 Ronald McDonald Houses in the United States. Each offers a home-away-from-home for families of hospitalized, critically-ill children. The Shreveport-Bossier House is expected to have 22 bedrooms throughout its three-story, 25,000 square feet. Officials are hopeful for an early 2025 opening.

One of the “bigger gifts” to the proposed local Ronald McDonald House came at a recent East Ridge Country Club event. Carter Credit Union, a locally-owned financial institution, made the largest single donation in its history – $100,000 – to be the Ronald McDonald House’s technology sponsor.

“We pride ourselves on being the most technology-forward financial institution in the area,” said Joe Arnold, Carter’s chief executive officer. “We’re really proud of that and thought it was a natural fit for us to associate ourselves with the technology.”

For Arnold, making such a large donation brought back childhood memories.

“If you asked, ‘Hey, Joe, where did you grow up?’ it’s either the Dallas area or a McDonald’s drive-thru,” Arnold said. “I have known about the Ronald McDonald House almost my entire life. Obviously, a lot of that was in the early days, associating with Ronald McDonald as a kid. To think that my entire life I’ve known about this charitable organization, and fast-forward to now, where we have the opportunity to be on the ground floor of bringing this tremendous charity to our community – that’s really cool.”

To learn more about the local Ronald McDonald House – and how you can donate – you may visit www.rmhshreveportbossier.org.


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