Once a month, employees from East Tennessee Children’s Hospital can
be found chopping, baking, and cooking for families in need at the Ronald
The Ronald McDonald House provides temporary lodging and the comforts of
home for families with critically ill or injured children receiving treatment
at nearby hospitals. The House is available to any family who lives outside
of Knox County, acting as a home-away-from-home as their child stays in
the hospital. The House offers multiple different home resources, such
as private bedrooms, play areas, and laundry facilities; there’s
also a fully stocked kitchen, where Children’s Hospital staff come
to prepare and serve a meal once a month.
This tradition started in 2013 as a way to give back to the community and
the patients and families of Children’s Hospital. So far, East Tennessee
Children’s Hospital has contributed more than seventy meals to the
House. Each month, the meal is provided by a different department, unit,
or group within the hospital; throughout the duration of the program,
more than twenty different departments have had the chance to serve a
home-cooked meal. In June, a team from the emergency department served
the House breakfast foods for dinner, complete with biscuits, gravy, and
fresh fruit – a treat for the families, as the House does not serve
The volunteer-cooked dinners served at Ronald McDonald House provide families
with the comfort of a hot meal during the stressful time of having a loved
one in the hospital; it also lessens the financial burden, as eating out
or in the hospital cafeteria can be a substantial expense.
Chris Tolliver, the clinical education manager of Organizational Development
and Learning, oversees the program and cites the family interaction as
one of the highlights of the program.
“The encounters that I have with the families are priceless,”
says Tolliver. “They are gracious and thankful for the groups who
come and provide. Sometimes you think you are just providing a meal, but
you are providing an ear to listen. Some are thankful that they have company
to talk with. ”
This sentiment is shared by Sue Beverly, director of Ronald McDonald House,
who says that the service of preparing these meals not only provides a
comforting hot meal, but also some much needed support to the families
staying at the house.
“We’re incredibly grateful that our partnership with Children’s
goes beyond addressing the obvious medical needs they have with their
child and touches on a family’s holistic needs such as providing
home-cooked meals, emotional support, and a safe haven where they can
relax away from the stress they face at the hospital,” says Beverly.
Tolliver and Beverly both see the partnership as mutually beneficial; the
House gets to better know the Children’s staff, and hospital employees
get the opportunity to work with the House in aiding the families’
emotional wellbeing outside of the hospital setting.
“It means the world to them knowing that people truly care about
what they are going through,” says Beverly. “Being well taken
care of gives parents that much more strength, both physical and emotional,
that is needed to deal with their child’s illness.”