Home Away From Home: Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Coastal Empire

Nestled amid the hubbub of hospital pediatric, cancer and intensive care units, the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Coastal Empire provides a haven for families of children with serious illnesses to rest and regroup during their child’s hospital stay. The program is funded through national grants and local fundraisers, and families contribute a suggested donation of $10 per night, though no family is ever turned away due to an inability to contribute. “Research shows that a family presence in the hospital helps children recover more quickly and allows them to cope better,” says RMHC executive director Bill Sorochak.  “Staying close by allows parents to better communicate with their child’s medical team and improves adherence to complicated treatment plans.” 

But RMHC offers more than private lodging, hot meals and laundry facilities —it also provides emotional support for families facing similar difficulties. “We at RMHC carry the full emotional gambit — from protector to supporter to cheerleader to being a shoulder to lean on,” Sorochak says. “Making sure those families can spend as much time with their child — that’s why I’m here.” 

Wine, Women and Shoes has raised almost $1 million for the Coastal Empire.

RMHC has provided care for families and their children for an astounding 32 years. In 2018 alone, the organization served more than 6,400 families in Chatham County, and the numbers are growing. Sorochak believes RMHC’s outreach approach contributes to its success. “We serve not just one illness or injury, but all of them. Not only a premature baby or cancer patient but any child from newborn to 21 years of age who needs us.” One other advantage, according to Sorochak, is RMHC’s “fluffiest therapy dog ever” — an Australian Labradoodle, Willow. But perhaps the most impactful factor in helping Savannah-area families is the allocation of RMHC funds.

We serve not just one illness or injury, but all of them.

Though the Ronald McDonald House is a nationwide foundation, every dollar raised in our community stays in our community. All proceeds directly benefit the foundation’s three core programs: the Ronald McDonald House, two family rooms located at the Dwaine & Cynthia Willett Children’s Hospital at Memorial and St. Joseph’s/Candler, and the Care Mobile Program, which provides resources such as dental care to rural communities.

Luckily, when you’re raising money for a good cause, Savannah steps up. Since 2013, RMHC’s annual fashion show and gala (voted Best Charity Event/Fundraiser) Wine, Women and Shoes has raised almost $1 million for the Coastal Empire. “The last five years have been sold out,” Sorochak says. “This year’s event sold out nearly two months in advance!” Yet the biggest winners, he points out, are always the children and families RMHC serves.

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