“We came back from a long day of visiting my baby…and we were lying down to go to sleep, and we heard a large boom. ‘Did you hear that?’ I asked my boyfriend, and he goes out to see what’s happened and sees the water coming down from the room where it happened.”
This is Destiny Anguino’s account of last Friday’s polar vortex—induced pipe rupture at the Hyde Park Ronald McDonald House (RMH), located at 5444 South Drexel Avenue. Ronald McDonald House Charities, a program of the Ronald McDonald Foundation, provide housing and essential services for families who have children experiencing long-term hospital stays and disease treatment. Programming at the RMH has been significantly disrupted since the incident, and the 22 families staying in the building are currently living in the Hyatt Place hotel, at 5225 South Harper Avenue, during repairs to the water-damaged house.
Anguino and her boyfriend have a three-month-old baby undergoing a series of surgeries at the UChicago Comer Children’s Hospital, and have been staying at the RMH since his birth to avoid the commute between the hospital and their hometown of Hulbert, Indiana.
Anguino described staying at RMH as giving her and her boyfriend “one less thing to worry about.” The RMH program covers meals, transport, parking passes, and other incidentals for its clients, and is trying to continue handling these details throughout the repair process.
Holly Buckendahl, the Chicagoland Chief Executive Officer for the Ronald McDonald House, said although water-affected items would be removed by the end of next week, repairs will likely take three to four months. The cost of the work is as yet undetermined.
“In the meantime, we’ve set up satellite services for the families that we serve,” Buckendahl said. These services include transport to the hospital and pharmacy, access to laundry facilities, and provided meals.
Buckendahl said the hotel was collaborating with program coordinators on things like providing hotel transport for RMH residents as well as offering the foundation some financial assistance to help defray the cost of housing 22 families for three months.
“Hyatt Place [is] being very generous with their rates and allowing us some flexibility and helping us deliver those services,” she said.
So far, Anguino and her boyfriend have had a positive experience with the change of circumstances.
“We get free breakfast at the hotel; They have a shuttle service,” Anguino said. “I think everything has been very well handled. Mardelle [Gundlach, the program director of the Comer branch of RMH] makes us feel that we’re still at the Ronald McDonald House,” Anguino said.
The community around the RMH has also generated $50,000 worth of donations so far, Buckendahl said. Some of these resources came from a fundraiser sponsored by UChicago Chabad that raised $257 on Thursday.
“The community has been very generous,” Buckendahl said. “We’re not asking families to pay for any costs, [so] whether people are giving their time or…home-cooked meals, or catering food, it’s just greatly appreciated.”
Anguino said that the RMH staff has been doing its best to make sure the families are comfortable in their temporary accommodation, going so far as to give out their personal phone numbers in case of issues.
“Management calls us every day to make sure we’re OK, we’re comfortable,” Anguino said. “We’re very appreciative of everything Mardell and her team is doing for us, even with the cleaning, drying, instead of being like, ‘Hey, you have to go home.’”