Ronald McDonald House remodeled


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Shortly after the birth of Des Moines native Almeda Walker’s second child, the family received unexpected news that son A.J. would need a kidney transplant.

Since Nov. 23, Walker’s family have been staying at the Ronald McDonald House. With major renovations to the guest rooms, Walker said she finally feels a little bit more at home.

“They don’t act like it’s a job for them. When you are going through the most traumatic things in life, they care and understand,” Walker said. “The new updates gives it more of a bedroom feel, and it makes it feel more at home when you’re not actually able to go home.”

The Ronald McDonald House updated 10 guest rooms in 10 hours last week. Mark Roberts of Larry Roberts Interiors of Cedar Rapids dedicated his time and expertise to renovate 10 of 31 rooms.

“It’s a lot of fun to work on a project which helps these families,” Roberts said. “I know one of the main goals of the house is to create a home away from home since most of the families stay for a large period of time. If we can make them more comfortable during a tough time in their lives, then that’s a great accomplishment.”

Roberts said his business usually uses custom-made materials for most of its projects; however, for this project, he decided to partner with surrounding businesses.

JCPenney in Coralville supplied the new bedding, curtains, and lamps. New bed frames, dressers, and nightstands were constructed and purchased from Iowa Prison Industries.

Roberts said officials originally planned to have the first five rooms updated in 2012, however, the construction required more time.

But the comfort of the families trumped the desire for a quick renovation.

“The rooms get used a lot, and for us to provide a home away from home, we want to make sure to provide the best foot forward for our families,” said Kristin Roberts, the executive director of the Ronald McDonald House. “We want to be able to escape and relax from the pressure of the hospital.”

She said the Ronald McDonald House usually sees roughly 1,000 to 1,500 families come through the house annually and approximately 3, 500 individuals. She said the house will continue to see updates in the future.

She said bedding in some of the rooms were very limited for guests; after Mark Roberts designs, he was able to add three new full-size beds, allowing the Ronald McDonald House to increase capacity.

“We want to have a nice and homey environment for the families,” Kristin Roberts said. “With space limited in the rooms, we wanted to make sure as many family members as possible could rest their head on a pillow and comfortable bed at night.”

UI spokesman Tom Moore said the Ronald McDonald House provides invaluable support to families who are facing difficult circumstances.

“The staff at the Ronald McDonald House creates a haven that gives families someplace they can go to take a much needed break to rest and relax a bit,” he said. “The Ronald McDonald House is accessible, convenient, and truly a home away from home for our patients and their families.”

Walker said her family will be able to return home on Feb. 3; however, she said her stay at the house has been a great experience. She said the staff has embraced her 2-month-old A.J., 2-year-old Isaiah, husband Demarco Polson, and mother Lori Walker as if they were family members.

“They could not have treated me more like a family member,” Walker said. “I literally cried on one of the girl’s shoulders, and she talked to me for two hours. You don’t get that very often with people, and the staff here, they care so much.”

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