Ronald McDonald House undergoing expansion; families had brief stay in UNO dorms

Rendering courtesy of Ronald McDonald House Charities Omaha

Jessica Wade

May 11 through July 31, it wasn’t students who could be found residing on the first and second floors of Scott Court I, it was children, their families and the employees of the Ronald McDonald House Charities Omaha.

An organization with the mission to create and operate programs that directly improve the health and well-being of children, Ronald McDonald House employees along with 13 families occupied 15 dorms while the house underwent phase one of a massive renovation and expansion.

Program Director Vicky Coleman was one of several employees who used a dorm as an office space.

“We looked at other places and this was the best deal,” Coleman said. “We went over and looked at them [the dorms] a couple times ourselves, and we decided that it would be awesome for the families to move over there. They loved it over there.”

While Coleman said the families enjoyed their stay in Scott Court, she is thrilled to see the expansion moving forward.

“We turned away 1600 people in two years because we have 20 rooms and we go first come first serve,” Coleman said. “We’ve had to turn away a lot of families, so this is hoping that we won’t have to turn away anymore.”

Coleman said that many of the kids who stay at the house are patients of Dr. David Mercer, head of transplant surgery and intestinal rehabilitation at the Nebraska Medical Center and president-elect of the McDonald House’s board of directors.

In an interview with the Omaha World Herald, Mercer described the need for this growth.

“We’ve been expanding and more and more patients are coming from all over the country,” he said. “The Mac House has always been looking at what the community needs and what they can do.”

Marketing and Communications Coordinator Hunter Samuels described the many new features the expansion will provide.

“We’re adding 20 guest rooms and 20,000 square feet, we’re doubling in size,” Samuels said. “The new wing has the 20 new rooms as well as headquarters for Angels Among Us. They’re a local non-profit that provides financial assistance for families who have kids with cancer and our families.”

Some additions make perfect sense, like the in-house treatment space, the first of its kind in the Ronald McDonald House Charities, which will be operated by Nebraska Medicine.

Other features are less obvious, solving problems that many would not think of unless facing a similar situation.

“There will be laundry rooms on every floor, which is something that doesn’t seem like a big deal, but we’ve got 40 families that a lot of times are sitting in an ambulance all night and couldn’t grab a change of clothes,” Samuels said. “For them to be able to do laundry at any time of night, really conveniently—they don’t have to worry about paying at a laundry mat—it’s a big deal.”

The new addition will also include an after-school program sponsored by Completely KIDS, a salon, non-denominational chapel, kitchen sponsored by Mustaches for Kids Omaha and a GED program.

“We raised $10.3 million just in about a year or so and it’s all because there’s people who found something they want to get behind and recognize that we’re working towards something that’s bigger than all of us,” Samuels said. “The last thing we want these families to do is worry about anything other than their children.”

The new facility is projected to open in spring 2019. According to Coleman, “It’s going to be beautiful.”