Local family reflects on care received at Ronald McDonald House during son’s hospital stay

Franchisees Ken and Jan Malenfant thanked for over $100,000 in contributions to charity

Thomas Trudel's family is grateful for the support they had while staying at Ronald McDonald House and visiting the Family Room at Victoria Hospital (Submitted photo/Ivan Trudel)

Ronald McDonald House Saskatchewan is recognizing the efforts of Prince Albert franchisees in celebration of Family Day.

CEO Tammy Forrester said Prince Albert McDonald franchisees Ken and Jan Malenfant have directly donated over $115,000 since 2010 to Ronald McDonald House charities in the province through their McHappy Day giving, coin box, and kiosk round up support.

“I really just want the Prince Albert community to know what the local owner-operators are doing for families that live in PA that have to travel and find themselves elsewhere for the medical needs of their children,” Forrester said.

“It’s really an incredible support to PA families and families across the province,” she added.

A total of 96 families from Prince Albert have stayed at the Ronald McDonald House in Saskatoon, totalling 1668 nights spent near hospital and close to loved ones.

Ken said he and his family are proud to support the charity.

“I always say raising money is easy but getting people on the ground and people that volunteer at the house or work at the house, those are truly the special people,” Ken said.

Ken added that McHappy Day is the biggest event for McDonalds. He explained it’s an opportunity to promote the charity and help share stories of local families impacted by it.

That includes the Trudels.

Ivan and Shianne Trudel’s son, Thomas was born on July 13, 2017. Ivan explained his son was born with genetic anomalies and that there is no known or documented case anywhere else in the world.

Thomas spent the first year of his life in hospital as doctors tried to diagnose and learn more about his condition.

“Being that there’s no other known case, there’s no other documentation to look back on and to see what to expect. It was all kind of a learning thing,” Ivan said.

Thomas suffered from a list of complex medical needs including not being able to swallow so he needed a feeding tube. Thomas was also blind and deaf.

Thomas Trudel (submitted photo/Ivan Trudel)

Ivan explained that one portion of his sons genetics was duplicated whereas another portion was deleted.

“When you take away and/or add and play with the genetic code, it’s like the blueprint of a house – if you mess around with that blueprint, the house isn’t going to get built right,” Trudel explained. “It affected pretty much everything about him.”

Ivan and his family traveled to Edmonton where doctors informed them that Thomas was palliative. Ivan said this news came as a shock to the family, as they thought they could address Thomas’ needs as they came up and bring him home eventually.

Thomas was able to return home with the help of two overnight nurses to take care of him. One of the nurses ended up leaving so the family had to come up with another solution.

Thomas ended up moving to supportive living at Hope’s Home, but Ivan said the family was able to see Thomas whenever they wanted and even brought him on the weekends.

In the last six months of Thomas’ life, he started having seizures. Although at first the seizures were controllable they eventually weren’t. Ivan said the family tried all the medications that doctors could prescribe and even tried using CBD but nothing could get the seizures under control.

“It’s incredibly hard on your brain when you’re having seizures that often all the time. It finally took him, so on November 1st he passed away,” Ivan said.

Thomas was nearly 3-and-a-half years old when he passed away.

Ivan and his wife, who have two other children aged 5 and 6, know firsthand how supportive the Ronald McDonald House is for families.

As Thomas spent the first year of his life in hospital, the Trudels stayed at Ronald McDonald House in Saskatoon for almost 122 nights.

Ivan said the house in Saskatoon is within walking distance to the hospital, which is convenient, and helps save money since families don’t need to pay for parking at the hospital. He said the house itself is big, modern and has a homey feeling.

It has shared full kitchens with multiple stoves and fridges so families can prepare meals. The basement also has a playroom for kids.

They also stayed at the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton for almost two weeks while Thomas was being treated, and spent some time at Ronald McDonald House in Edmonton.

Thomas was later stable enough to return to Victoria Hospital in Prince Albert. Ivan estimates the family spent 250 days in the hospital with their son. He said they often visited the Ronald McDonald House Family Room during that time.

“The family room is a sanctuary for families that if you’re in the hospital for as long as we have or even if it’s a day or two or three, you need a place to kind of remove yourself and kind of take yourself out of that hospital environment and just take a break,” Ivan said.

The family room has a TV, fireplace and bathroom and showers if families need. There’s also a full kitchen where families can prepare meals.

When the Trudel family was nearing the end of their stay at Ronald McDonald House, Ivan realized he was going to miss it and wanted to be a part of it somehow.

“It genuinely became our second home. We felt super comfortable there,” Ivan said.

Ivan ended up joining the board of directors for Ronald McDonald House Saskatoon, something he said is important and exciting for him.

The Trudel family served as the Prince Albert McHappy Day family in 2019. They helped greet guests and met Ken and Jan, although they’ve known each other personally from living in Albertville.

“It’s great that they’re as involved as they are (and) they give back to the community like that,” Ivan said about the Malenfants.

Ivan said it’s important to raise awareness about the Ronald McDonald House and the Family Room at Victoria Hospital.

“You don’t really know what it’s about until you need it and then it’s like wow what a blessing,” Ivan said.

Ken said the Trudels were a fantastic addition to McHappy Day.

“They were here pretty much the whole day or a big part of the day and just helping out on the floor and in the lobby. It’s nice that they’re giving back as well,” Ken explained.

“They get it. They lived it so they know how important the house is and the room is here in P.A.,”he added.

Ken said he and his wife and the team at McDonalds Prince Albert are proud to support Ronald McDonald charities.

McHappy Day is one of the biggest fundraisers for McDonalds and Ronald McDonald House. Ken explained in the past $1 has been donated for every Big Mac, Egg McMuffin, hot beverage and Happy Meal sold on the day.

The Malenfant’s have also contributed other funding through their Happy Meal and cookie sales which is donated in the form of an annual grant that supports general House and Family Room operations.

McHappy Day 2020 was cancelled last spring due to the pandemic. Ken said McDonalds is planning on moving it to Sept. 2021 with hopes COVID-19 cases will go down.

Another big money raiser for Ronald McDonald House is the McDonalds’ Fries for Good campaign where 10 cents for every orders of fries sold over a period of time is donated to the charity.

Last campaign, McDonald’s restaurants across the country raised $1.8 million for Ronald McDonald House. Two of Prince Albert’s McDonalds were in the top three for sales in the country.

This year, Fries for Ronald McDonald House Charity will run from April 20 until May 10. McDonalds is hoping to raise $2 million across the country.

As someone who sees almost every day where those dollars go, Forrester said she doesn’t believe Ronald McDonald House could operate and support families without base funding from McDonalds partners.

“It’s imperative that it’s there, it’s crucial. It really is sort of why we can do what we do because we know we have the support of our McDonalds owner-operators,” Forrester said.

The Family Room at Victoria Hospital (Submitted photo/Tammy Forrester)
Ken and Jan Malenfant at the renovated Family Room and Victoria Hospital (Submitted photo/Tammy Forrester)