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PHS Top Spots: Favorite Family Support Group or Organization

PHS recently announced our list of 2020 PHS Top Spots winners. While we are just as excited to celebrate these amazing organizations as we have been in past years, most celebrations for these recipients will be taking place virtually. The current social distancing recommendations give us an opportunity to share more insights on our blog as to what makes these groups and organizations stand-outs on our 2020 Top Spots list.

PHS Top Spots Winner: Favorite Family Support Group or Organization

“We are proud to be recognized as an important source of support for families with medically complex children,” said Jill Evenocheck, president and CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities, Upper Midwest. “The PHS Top Spot award is especially meaningful because it underscores our focus on addressing the needs of parents, caregivers, siblings and other family members as they navigate a child’s medical journey.”

Support In All Forms

Ronald McDonald House Charities, Upper Midwest offers a range of support services to families seeking treatment for their child. “By offering complimentary meals, lodging, schooling and a wide array of other support services, we work to lighten their burden and enable parents to focus on the health and well-being of their child and the family unit as a whole,” said Jill.

Ronald McDonald House Charities provides a K-12 school at their site on Oak Street in Minneapolis. There are many reasons for kids to need help in school. “It could be that an 8-year-old’s baby sister has a congenital heart condition. The older sibling doesn’t understand medically what is happening but can see that everyone is sad,” explained Elizabeth Norton, marketing strategist Ronald McDonald House Charities, Upper Midwest. “But when they are in school and have a routine, they can feel more normal.”

The charity also provides care for the caregiver in a range of services including a healing touch massage, knitting classes, Tuesday coffees and grief support. At their Twin Cities locations caregivers can also receive haircuts from Aveda stylists. “The parents of medically complex kids are unsung heroes,” said Elizabeth. “They labor under so much – to be supported and to be recognized that they need support is truly important. You can’t be your best if you are hanging on by a thread.”

There are Ronald McDonald House locations across the region. In Minnesota there are two in Saint Paul and two in Minneapolis, one in Rochester and one scheduled to open in Duluth in November 2020.

Never Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

Pre-pandemic, and hopefully again soon, Ronald McDonald House Charities ran a “Cooks for Kids” program supported by volunteers. Private groups of individuals select a night, then shop for and prepare a meal for up to 15 people staying at the house.

Those guests are offered a home-cooked meal every night as well as brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. Of course, sitting down for a meal is not always an option for worried caregivers. To accommodate their needs, volunteers also offer to-go containers for those needing to hurry back to the hospital or prefer some downtime with their meal.

For the people that stay for the meal, they find warm, compassionate hosts and companions who understand the strain and struggles they are facing. “This is love in action,” said Elizabeth. “Meals matter.”

Currently, due to pandemic restrictions, meals are prepared and packaged by a core group of volunteers and staff members at a single facility. Those meals are then delivered to the other area houses. Ingredients and supplies have been donated by several large food service companies.

Small Actions, Large Impact

Minnesota is home to some of the best medical and research facilities in the country. As such, many patients travel to the Twin Cities area for treatment. In fact, 75% of the families Ronald McDonald House serves in the metro area are from out of state. Those families may be away from home for as long as four or five months while their child has treatment.

Those long-term stays at the hospital incur costs beyond medical expenses. They include food, lodging, transportation, laundry, childcare, tutoring services, haircuts and more. In 2019 Ronald McDonald House Charities, Upper Midwest supported 6,709 families across their four Twin Cities houses. Due to the array of services offered at Ronald McDonald House, those families saved a combined $6.3 million in out of pocket expenses.

For more information about services and volunteer opportunities or to donate, visit

Originally published: October 14, 2020

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