Google gives the gift of technology to Sask. Ronald McDonald House families

A Google representative gifted devices to Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) Saskatchewan at the beginning of December. CEO of RMHC Saskatchewan, Tammy Forrester, said families were excited to unwrap them. (Ronald McDonald House Charities Saskatchewan/Facebook)

65 per cent of Canadians live in communities without a children’s hospital

Sick children and their families at Saskatoon’s Ronald McDonald House and Prince Albert’s family room now have access to new technology in time for the holidays.

That’s thanks to Google Canada, who donated over 200 devices across the country to Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC). These devices include the Google Home, Google Nest, Chromecast, Pixel 4, Nest WiFi and YouTube Premium subscriptions.

“This is an incredibly difficult time for families being away from their extended family, from friends, especially during the holidays, and Google looked for a way that we could help in some small way to make their stay just a little bit easier,” said Aaron Brindle, Google Canada’s head of public affairs.

“I think about myself as a parent, having to navigate something like this. It really is a parent’s worst nightmare,” he added.

“(But this allows) families to use our products to connect with family and loved ones who are not there, like video conferencing services like Duo or using things like the Google Assist where they’re using things like kitchens to look up recipes for gingerbread.”

RMHC Saskatchewan CEO Tammy Forrester said they received the devices a couple of weeks ago.

“It certainly is fun for kids to talk to the Google Chrome and ask Google to play something, play Christmas music. I was mentioning the other day that there was Alvin and the Chipmunks playing throughout the house on all of our devices, so that is a lot of fun,” she said.

Ronald McDonald Houses provide home-like spaces close to hospitals for families and their sick children to stay.

The charity opened up a family room in Prince Albert’s Victoria Hospital about three years ago. Families have access to a living room with a TV and fireplace, a laundry facility, a dining area, arts and crafts supplies, napping nooks, and a shower, to name a few of its features.

“These are oftentimes emergency situations or surprise situations,” she said. “Families are not always prepared.”

With the Victoria Hospital also serving patients from the north, Forrester said the family room there saw more visitors in the past three years than the Ronald McDonald House in Saskatoon.

Each year, Ronald McDonald Houses and their family rooms serve over 26,000 families in Canada. Sixty-five per cent of Canadians live in communities without a children’s hospital.

Brindle emphasized the devices aren’t just for entertainment value.

“There’s a lot of families who English isn’t their first language and there is a conversation mode in Google Translate,” he said about what he’s noticed in Toronto.

“Those kind of capabilities can help families navigate these very challenging situations. You can imagine just adding (language barriers), layering it on to all of the other issues and challenges that come up if you find yourself in the situation where you’re staying at one of these homes.”

Forrester said it’s also an issue in Saskatchewan.

“That is so real here at the house and in our family room—our diverse cultures and backgrounds of families that are using these spaces,” she said.

“When technology can help us break down those barriers so we can converse and help one another and connect with one another, there’s just such value in that, just pure as an internal tool for our communities.”

This is the first time RMHC and Google have collaborated for a holiday campaign. The public is encouraged to share their stories with #MadeToHelp or donate to RMHC at

RMHC is also encouraging the public to take part in its Gift of Nights campaign. By making a donation, RMHC says you’re helping families in need stay in a house for only $10 a night opposed to the actual cost per night, which would be well over $100.

Google representative and NBA player Pascal Siakam surprised families at the Ronald McDonald House in Toronto to kick off the campaign.