While Ronald McDonald House Charities Saskatoon’s first playground was a great addition to the house, it wasn’t serving everyone that it should. It was part of a large capital campaign that supported expanded services at the Saskatoon house several years ago including the new play area and gardens.
The addition of a playground was a great improvement, but it left children who use wheelchairs on the ground looking up. The courtyard itself was wheelchair accessible, the play structure was not and this was a problem.
“We want to encourage play and ensure that all children feel they belong here. In order to do that, we had to make changes,” said Marcelline Zimmer, Director of Operations. When the current board chair suggested a wheelchair-accessible playground, responses were very positive. Except for the new playground that already sat beside the house. They decided to shelf the idea, putting the new accessible equipment on a wish list.
The project came to be when RMHC-SK was approached by two generous donors who wanted to support a specific project. The two brothers chose the playground project along with some new garden boxes, explaining how their mother loved children and would have been proud to support these kid-centred improvements. So, thanks to the donation, a new playground was designed allowing for all abilities of children to join the fun. The new playground attaches directly to the house and features music panels, imaginative play, a race car and more. Best of all, every child belongs.
“We try to encourage a sense of normalcy for families who have travelled and are likely feeling out of sync. We want people to feel comfortable and at home,” said Zimmer. In addition to the accessible playground, garden boxes full of vegetables, flowers and herbs are another touch that help to make Ronald McDonald House a home. Each year, volunteers plant colourful flowers and a variety of veggies in the garden boxes and larger garden, then later in the summer, the food program staff incorporate the berries, herbs and vegetables in the meals and snacks. And, yes, visitors can snag a cherry tomato when they’re out in the yard!
Of all the services provided, the food program is perhaps the most impactful. The mission at RMHC-SK is to support the health and wellness of the entire family as they support their sick child. With cooks and staff who are passionate about food, the prepared meals are colourful, nutritious and tasty. The meals in the House include hot/cold breakfasts, bagged to-go lunches and three sit-down meals each the week.
“They are nourishing the families for a long day at the hospital where they’ll have to pay attention, listen to medical language, learn about medications… it’s stressful and draining. You can’t have a sugary muffin and expect to be alert all day,” said Zimmer.
When hospital cafeterias closed due to Covid-19, food became quite a challenge. Ronald McDonald House Saskatoon recognized this need and began providing lunch – not only for house residents, but for all families staying at the children’s hospital. The medical units place orders in the morning, then RMHC-SK staff prepare and deliver hearty, homemade lunches to about 60 or 70 families in NICU, PICU, PEDS and the mental health unit each Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
One mom who sat at her son’s bedside without eating for two days was never so happy to see a bagged lunch. She commented on Facebook to let RMHC-SK know just how grateful she was for that nourishing food. “The work our staff does makes an impact. Comments like these are such a boost for our staff,” said Zimmer.
The other benefit to the lunch program is the ability to give back to Saskatoon families. “Part of our mission is to support all families in Saskatchewan. Our local families don’t usually need accommodations, so there hasn’t been a chance to serve them until now,” said Zimmer.
Ronald McDonald House in Saskatoon usually serves 1,500 families a year. The average stay is between seven to 10 days, but they have had families stay for up to a year. To learn more or to support the amazing work that Ronald McDonald House Charities – SK does, visit www.rmh.sk.ca or find them on Facebook and Instagram @rmhcsk.
At 1 Stop Playgrounds we were thrilled to be involved with Ronald McDonald House Charities Saskatoon. We helped them design and install both playgrounds, and we were able to repurpose the original playground.