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Ronald McDonald House raises money for needy families

By Cassie Blombaum
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
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When a child is on a sickbed or seriously injured, the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Arizona wants to be there for them and their families.

In conjunction with 97.1 Suave FM radio, the organization is hosting El Dia de los Niños, or "Day of the Child," today to raise money for families in need of housing while their child is in the hospital or recovery.

Subtitled "For the Smile of a Child," the event encourages the community to drive by and celebrate children by making a donation to the Ronald McDonald House, 2230 E. Speedway Blvd.

Jose Arvayo, the promotions director for the Hispanic division of Clear Channel Tucson, said El Dia de Los Niños is a popular holiday in Mexico.

"Its pretty much like Mother's Day or Father's Day," Arvayo said. "It's a day to celebrate kids."

Esta-Beth Wentz, an anthropology sophomore and a work-study student with the Ronald McDonald House, said she decided to help out with the event to assist the community.

Wentz said she started working with the Ronald McDonald House September 2003, and said she likes working there because it is unlike most jobs and allows her to help people.

"I think the best part about working there is that it's kind of homey, and you get to talk with families there, and it's not just all computer filing work, you get to do a lot of things like visiting the family room and helping people." Wentz said. "It's not your everyday job."

Heather K. Dean, the director of development with the Ronald McDonald House Charities, said money raised during the event will help families who cannot afford to stay at the Ronald McDonald House.

"The Ronald McDonald House asks families to pay $10 per night, but many families cannot afford even this small contribution for an extended period," Dean said. "Families unable to pay are never turned away, but are placed on our Adopt-A-Family Program to fund their stay. Our actual cost per night, per family is $65."

Dean said the event will begin at 6 a.m. and will stay on the air continuously until at least 500 Adopt-A-Family nights are funded, and teaming up with the bilingual radio station was necessary for reaching out to a larger audience.

"A large percentage of the families and children we serve are Hispanic and/or Spanish speaking," said Dean, who added that partnering with the radio station was, "a great opportunity for us."

Dean said the monetary goal is $5,000, which will fund 500 Adopt-A-Family nights.

"However, if this goal is achieved through the generosity of the community and Suave FM listeners, the ante will be raised, and we will fund as many Adopt-A-Family nights as possible during the continuous live broadcast."

Dean said the Ronald McDonald House is a home away from home for families whose children must travel to Tucson for medical care. In 2004, Dean said the organization accommodated 444 families with the average length of stay at about 12 days.

The families are offered their own room and shared use of two kitchens, laundry room, playroom, living, dining and family areas, Dean said.

"It is the only facility of it's kind in southern Arizona," said Dean, who said the University Medical Center also has a Ronald McDonald Family Room located inside. "It offers families of pediatric patients a place to relax, away from the stresses of the hospital, while still being close to their children."

Dean said the Ronald McDonald House Charities is a nonprofit organization that provides comfort and support to families with seriously ill or injured children. Since they do not receive any government funding, Dean said the livelihood of the organization depends on private donations from the community.

"(It) was started with the understanding that in addition to quality medical care, sick children need their family nearby and families need support and stability during their child's illness," Dean said.

Overall, Dean said he hopes the El Dia de los Niños event will benefit the community tremendously by helping families with children in need.

"Families never know when they will need a place like the Ronald McDonald House or Ronald McDonald Family Room," Dean said. "Most don't expect ever to need our services. But when they do, we are here."

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