A/DDS&T Joanne Isham Visits Fairfax Hospital's Ronald McDonald House
As part of the Agency's ongoing Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) efforts, on October 19, Acting Deputy Director for Science and Technology Joanne Isham visited the northern Virginia Ronald McDonald House (CFC #8961) on the Fairfax Hospital campus. The House, one of 190 Houses in 14 countries, serves as a temporary lodging facility for the families of seriously ill children being treated at nearby hospitals. The House has eight bedrooms and several common living areas, including a playroom, a family room, library facilities, a kitchen, and a dining room. Since 1974, when the first House was opened in Philadelphia by Philadelphia Eagle Fred Hill, the program has helped more than two million family members. Families served include those who have children receiving medical treatments for cancer, premature birth, heart and organ transplants, burns, major accidents, and other serious medical problems. Generally, 25 percent of the operating budget is raised through the McDonald's Corporation; the rest comes from charitable donations from local firms and the community at large. Staffed by numerous volunteers and a handful of employees, the Fairfax House has received numerous donations in kind from local firms; even the artwork was provided by Fairfax County schoolchildren.
The Fairfax House, which opened on January 5, 1998, serves seven regional hospitals. Pat Lauer, the facility's business manager, noted that "the facility lets families who stay with us provide support to each other during this stressful time; they're able to relate to what they're each going through. We've had families stay with us for an overnight through several months." Debbie Wargo, the House's Executive Director, added, "You never know when you're going to need the services of our facilities. The stonemason who built our fireplace became our third customer just days after finishing the work. He told us, 'I never thought I'd be here again, but I'm sure glad you're here.'
An Agency family has been helped by the Ronald McDonald House organization. David, Chief of Video Engineering in the DS&T, and his wife, Ann, also from the DS&T, said, "In October 1994 our son, Andrew (Andy), was diagnosed with leukemia. After almost three years of treatment we thought we were finished with it, but then last October Andy relapsed. He spent most of the next seven months in hospitals or doctors' offices, including receiving a cord blood transplant (like a bone marrow transplant) in Minneapolis in January. We witnessed firsthand how many of the leukemia and other cancer-related organizations participating in the CFC helped families in our situation. Two organizations that have been particularly special in our case were the Ronald McDonald House (#1537), where we had almost free housing in an incredibly supportive environment within walking distance of the hospital in Minneapolis for four months; and Camp Fantastic/Special Love (#7197), an organization that provides a full camp experience (as well as other activities) for kids being treated for cancer, where the kids can be "normal" while having available all the often daily intensive medical care associated with cancer treatment. Andy is doing well, and we will always be grateful to the Ronald McDonald House and Camp Fantastic for being there for us when we needed them."
(Editor's Note: You can visit the National Capital Area Combined Federal Campaign website at www.cfcnca.org)