Chicago, IL

A solution for families to continue operations


Like many areas, the Ronald McDonald House Charities Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana (RMHC-CNI) have been impacted by the pandemic. Every year, thousands of children and families travel to receive care at one of Chicago’s world-renowned hospitals. Through the Ronald McDonald House and Family Room programs, they have been by their side since 1977, providing a caring and compassionate environment where families can rest and find support while remaining close to their hospitalized child. In addition, through the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile program, in partnership with Advocate Children’s Hospital, staff members provide medical care to children in under-served areas throughout the Chicago area. The RMHC-NI mission exists so families can get better together; they envision a world where families can better together.

Consequently, RMHC-NI puts the needs of children and families first by collaborating with community partners. They honor their heritage and founders and operate with accountability and transparency. They also invest in the growth and development of their people. In 2020 alone, roughly 2,671 children were served. However, there have been some interruptions.

We had a chance to chat with Holly Buckendahl, CEO of RMHC Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana. She explains how it was a challenging time with the pandemic hitting as they were looking for solutions as many areas had to be shut down limiting operations. A way to solve this to continue operations was using an air purifier that would do the job in curbing the virus; thus, they looked into Rensair and received a donation of sixteen units which were put to immediate use.

“We are always striving to provide the healthiest environment for our guest families. We continue taking all measures to contribute to better air quality, following guidance from RMHC Global, our partner hospitals and other medical authorities, such as the Centers for Disease Control. Across the organization, occupancy is now about 55 to 60%” says Lisa Mitchell, Vice President of Programs and Services at RMHC-CNI.

As they go into the future, Mitchell expects to see occupancy closer to 75%.

Once science confirmed coronavirus spreads through airborne particles, Mitchell took a serious look at the HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system, which was different in each house.

“I consulted our HVAC contractor to consider some options for installing blue light technology, but it didn’t seem like a worthwhile investment,” she says. “It was very expensive, there was no substantiated data at that time demonstrating the system killed the coronavirus, plus it was going to need ongoing maintenance with cost implications.” Mitchell looked at additional options and began exploring other air filtration strategies.

"There are some decent HEPA air purifiers out there but only buy one with independent validation to show that it works and be aware that you need to change the filters very often (and take appropriate safety precaution when doing so)," explains Frederik Hendriksen Co-founder of Rensair.

This air purifier has given RMHC-CNI the gift of clean air — the units have allowed them to reopen common spaces safely making families more conformable and safely gather in their common spaces.

Ronald McDonald House is born of community and the support of many. For RMHC-CNI to have a tool come forward to support their families was inspiring and they were grateful for the investment that was made in Ronald McDonald House Charities Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana according to Mitchell. The hope is that RMHC-CNI continues to be able to support families for a better future.

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I write about culture, politics, parenting, religion, and health. My work has been published in The New York Times, National Geographic, Vanity Fair, Vox and Prism Reports among others.

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