‘Stops you in your tracks:’ PA Ronald McDonald House eyes 2026 opening after land donation

Pictured is the Ronald McDonald House in Saskatoon. Prince Albert is set to have its own house around 2026. -- Greg Pender/Saskatoon StarPhoenix

When Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) found that its Saskatoon house was only filling about 20 per cent of the need in the province, they looked at expanding.

That was back in 2018, according to CEO Tammy Forrester, when the goal of building in Prince Albert and Regina was born.

Last week, Lake Country Co-op announced a donation of 4.4 acres of land near the Victoria Hospital for the project. Forrester said it was a pleasant surprise, since RMHC was already envisioning where the future house would stand.

“When it kind of just comes out of the woodwork and out of the conversations that you have, it’s pretty amazing actually. It kind of stops you in your tracks a little bit, it’s so overwhelming,” she said.

“It’s been a good five years already in the making.”

Forrester said the Prince Albert house will follow the same admission criteria as the one in Saskatoon: families must have a child 18 years old or younger needing medical care and must live at least 40 km away.

It provides overnight guest rooms, TV areas, washers and dryers, a children’s play area, shuttle services to local hospitals and clinics and meal programs.

The Prince Albert house will have 12 rooms, which Forrester said is determined by the global organization based on how many out-of-city families the hospital serves. The Saskatoon house has 34 rooms.

“That’s the goal of the house, is then to provide that overnight accommodation for however long families need it when their child is in the hospital, knowing that for $10 a night, they will be provided with all of these amenities that the house will provide that the family room can’t,” explained Forrester.

While the suggested contribution is $10 a night to cover operating costs, RMHC said no one will be turned away if they can’t pay.

RMHC opened the family room in the Victoria Hospital in 2016. It offers a homey space for families of children in the pediatric unit, with a living room, TV, dining space, laundry facility and play area.

“The room provides certainly support and access for families that are in the hospital on a sort of day-to-day basis,” said Forrester.

“They have this room to go to for some day respite, but I think the gap here is there is no overnight place for families to be when they have travelled a fair distance.”

Forrester said it will cost about $8 million to build the house. RMHC is following roughly the same timeline as the Victoria Hospital expansion, completing construction around 2026.

She said the family room is also being incorporated into construction. Its operations won’t change once the house is open.

“We’re in the early stages, so the land donation is really step one for us and now it’s about creating a design, a really lovely space for families and a lovely house, and then fundraising, really – that’s the next step.”

Forrester said RMHC’s 2018 strategic plan was focused on economic development and expansion.

From there, the organization conducted medical feasibility studies to determine the need in Prince Albert and Regina. Planning also included economic feasibility studies, which determined that the projects had the community support to move forward.

The money comes from individual donations, community organizations, businesses and provincial support.