Families with children who are receiving care at MercyOne Children’s Hospital will have a comfortable place to stay at no cost right inside the Des Moines hospital with the opening of Greater Des Moines’ second Ronald McDonald House. 

Now available on the hospital’s fourth floor is a dedicated wing outfitted just for families. The “house” features 14 private bedroom suites that each sleep up to five people, along with a full-size community kitchen. Other amenities to help ease the strain of being at the hospital include a family room with an electric fireplace, a kids’ playroom and a spacious laundry room to wash clothes. 

Officials from MercyOne and Ronald McDonald House Central Iowa today hosted an open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new 15,000-square-foot facility. MercyOne is only the 10th medical center in the nation to have an in-hospital Ronald McDonald House. 

Ronald McDonald House Central Iowa, with the support of MercyOne Foundation, raised about $5 million from private, nonprofit and government agencies to fund renovation and initial operating costs for the facility. 

“It is truly a blessing to have such generous donors in the community,” said Karl Keeler, president of MercyOne Central Iowa. 

Among the largest private donors were Nix and Virginia Laurisden, who donated $1.5 million. MercyOne Foundation and the MercyOne Auxiliary together raised approximately $1 million through individual donations and proceeds from the auxiliary-run hospital salon and gift shop. Other significant donors include AbbVie Inc., which donated $2.3 million to the project as part of a $100 million national donation. Other donors include the Independent Order of Odd Fellows-Iowa, Prairie Meadows and the Polk County Board of Supervisors. 

MercyOne will lease the space for $1 annually to Ronald McDonald House Central Iowa, which will operate and staff the facility. The space replaces a much smaller “family room” on the third floor of the children’s hospital that accommodated up to three families at a time for one-night stays. 

Less than three years ago, Ronald McDonald House Central Iowa opened a new 18-bedroom Ronald McDonald House at 15th and Pleasant streets near Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines. 

The average stay at the existing Ronald McDonald House is about 11 days, although families with an infant in neonatal intensive care may stay for several months, said Brenda Miller, executive director of Ronald McDonald House Central Iowa. 

Miller said she expects that the facility at MercyOne Children’s Hospital will have several families occupying rooms when the facility opens tomorrow, and that she expects the rooms to fill steadily this year.  

MercyOne Children’s doctors anticipate that far more families will now opt to use the service. At present, about two-thirds of families with kids at MercyOne that could use the Ronald McDonald House don’t use it because they’d rather not be that far from their kids, said Dr. Cary Murphy, medical director of MercyOne’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Murphy is also a board member of Ronald McDonald House Central Iowa. 

Many families travel considerable distances for specialized procedures handled at MercyOne, among them about 120 heart surgeries and some 150 cleft palate procedures, Murphy said. The hospital also serves a significant number of children in its Level 3 NICU, pediatric ICU and children’s emergency department that brings families from all over to Des Moines, Murphy said.