By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Ronald McDonald House Charities provide the families of sick children a place to stay for free. But they also offer different types of comfort.

CBS3’s Jim Donovan recently talked with some employees and volunteers of our area Ronald McDonald Houses, and they say there’s no better place to spend your charitable dollars.

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“Once you’re there, you’re hooked. There’s no going back,” Trish Green, a volunteer at the charity’s South New Jersey home, said.

It’s a theme that resonated throughout interviews — the love these employees and volunteers have for the Ronald McDonald House.

“You go in there and you feel so good after you leave. It is a joy, it is a complete joy,” Green said. “It is truly a magical place.”

“It’s really such a privilege to serve our guests, providing them with a comfortable place to stay and hot meals and transportation,” Lori-Anne Miller, who works at the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Philadelphia, said.

Pat Trautner, who has volunteered for 12 years at the Ronald McDonald House Charities of South New Jersey, said, “They feel safe when they come back and see a volunteer who’s still here because they know you from over the years, and I think that’s a nice thing.”

Many families return to the Ronald McDonald House multiple times, and some come from thousands of miles away.

“I don’t think you ever imagine not only having a critically ill child but being in a foreign country and not having a good understanding of the language,” volunteer Susan O’Donnell said.

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The four area Ronald McDonald Houses truly provide a home away from home for families going through unimaginable circumstances, even in the midst of a pandemic.

Philadelphia staff member Anthony Stover said, “All of us had our lives topsy-turvy with this pandemic that has been going on, it has affected all of us and if you just take a second and imagine everything we just went through with the pandemic and then compound that with a seriously ill child, whether its oncology or orthopedic, or whatever else it may be, these families, these children are my heroes.”

“All the houses have been hit really hard with COVID-19, so your generous donation is going to help all the programming that we offer to the families here,” Haley Belcher-Patton, an employee at the Delaware branch, said.

When asked if there’s any way for an average family to afford a hotel stay in addition to paying for medical resources, volunteers and staff said it’s not possible.

“If you think about the cost of a hotel in the city compared to the $15 donation we suggest each night, and remember we never turn a family away just because they can’t afford to donate, it would just be impossible,” Philadelphia employee Alyssa Tritschler said.

“Every dollar that you donate will go to programs to support families who are going through medical treatment at any of the area hospitals, it will help us pay for meals, it will help us pay for transportation, lodging, other programs, anything to support the families while they’re staying at the house,” Katie Johnson, who is the director of operations at Ronald McDonald House of Delaware, said.

“It’s a unique place, it’s made up of families, when I tell people, they say, ‘The Ronald McDonald House, why do you do that, isn’t it sad?’ I say it’s the opposite of sad. It is the greatest house,” Green said.

WAYS TO DONATE

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Call: 1-888-506-HOPE (888-506-4673)
Online: www.rmhtelethon.org/donate
Venmo: @RMHCPhillyRegion
Text: Text the word “FAMILY” to 20222 to make a $25 donation