They called it the house that love built. In the 14 years since its construction in Syracuse, the Ronald McDonald House of Central New York has served hundreds of families of children with serious injuries or illnesses. Last Friday night, the house thanked those who served the children themselves.
At its fifth annual Homecoming Party, held at the Holiday Inn on Electronics Parkway in Liverpool from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Oct. 27, the Ronald McDonald House hosted some 300 guests. Among them were 80 neonatal and pediatric nurses, all of whom were on hand to be recognized by the house for their work with children.
“We started the event five years ago for our 20th anniversary,” said Beth Trunfio, executive director of the house. “We’ve done it ever since.”
In addition to honoring nurses, the event is a major fundraiser for the house, collecting money for the house and the families it shelters. The event featured a dinner and silent and live auctions. All materials were provided by corporate sponsors.
A home away from home
The Ronald McDonald House of CNY serves families from Onondaga, Madison, Oswego and Broome counties. The 16-bedroom house on Genesee Street, built in 1982, provides shelter for families with seriously ill or injured children being treated at area hospitals. The president of its board, Paul Ross, is also the house’s founder.
“I was a McDonald’s guy,” Ross said. “I’m still a McDonald’s guy. They were starting to build the houses everywhere, and it seemed natural to have one in Syracuse. I got involved with a parents’ group and we built one here.”
“At Ronald McDonald House, families have the opportunity to sit at the kitchen counter like they do at home,” Trunfio said. “They can talk about their days and their journeys through their children’s illnesses with other people who’ve been there.”
The house offers solace for the families, but it’s the nurses and doctors at Syracuse hospitals that treat the ailing kids.
“The house offers services after the fact, but the nurses are the ones on the front lines,” said board member Jim Reynolds. “They make a difference to these kids and their families.”
“The nurses help to heal the children,” Trunfio agreed. “They have a huge impact. We’re so happy to honor them.”
And the nurses are happy to be honored. Accepting the honors on behalf of the nurses were Joan Dadey of Crouse Hospital, Mary Davis of St. Joseph’s Hospital and Health Center and Leola Rogers of SUNY Upstate and University Hospital.
Dadey, director of women’s and children’s services at Crouse, pointed out that the average nurse had been at Crouse for at least 15 years. “They’re so passionate about what they do,” she said. “They’re the most remarkable people. They give of themselves every day. To have the Ronald McDonald House put nurses on a pedestal it’s wonderful.”
Dadey noted that the nurses see tragedy firsthand — but they also see hope.
“We’ve been to plenty of funerals and we’ve helped plenty of grieving families,” Dadey said. “But we’ve also seen so many kids come back to our NICU [Neonatal Intensive Care Unit] graduation every year. We see kids in their 20s and kids who are 2 or 3 who came out of our NICU. We do this job because so many do make it. It’s one of the most gratifying specialties in nursing.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.