IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KXPI/KIFI) - News anchor Todd Kunz found a place where people step up to help when a parent needs it most. If you have a sick or injured child in the hospital and possibly for an extended stay, then you need to be with them 24/7. Traveling back and forth from the hospital to home can be a burdensome distraction. What about meals?
How about a place and staff which provide a bit of normalcy and a home away from home? Welcome to the Ronald McDonald Family Room in Idaho Falls.
Time to Pay It Forward.
The Ronald McDonald Family Room in Idaho Falls began in 2019 with a single goal in mind.
"To keep families with ill or injured children close when they need it most. They need to stay strong so that they can help their child through that difficult journey they're on," said Lori Priest, Director of Community Engagement.
"We hear from families all the time that they are so grateful that during their long days at the hospital that there is a home away from home for them," said Priest.
A family can be local or from anywhere served by Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center. The Ronald McDonald Family Room is only steps from the neonatal intensive care unit. It is open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
"Take a shower, grab some food, the necessities of life, so that they can focus on their child," said Priest, showing Kunz the amenities of a laundry room, four bedrooms, and shower facilities. The average stay here is nine days according to material provided by Priest.
Kenneth and Christin of Pocatello is one such family that has utilized the services.
"It is so imperative that you have your needs met and that you're not focused on where to stay? What am I going to eat? You know. How am I going to get there? How am I going to afford all of this?" said Christin. When their daughter, Charlotte Rae, was born, she needed some special treatment.
"Everyone was really kind, very welcoming and understanding. It was a scary time. We were comforted right away," said Christin.
Emmitt Johnson of Pocatello needed a very long surgery. His mother, Amanda, is grateful for the accommodations for her entire family.
"It was a 23 hour surgery. It was so nice to have the Ronald McDonald House there. You know, a hospital room is kind of small and it's kind of sterile. So it was such a blessing," said Johnson.
Cole and Kiera Jenkins of Shelley had a similar experience with their son Trace.
"The nurse was telling us about Ronald McDonald. We didn't know anything about it," said Cole.
"It just kind of feels like home. And I think he felt that and he was so excited. He just lit up. To anyone who has donated to the family room, you don't know the type of impact you have on families," said Kiera.
That is the cue. Time to Pay It Forward.
"Our community is absolutely amazing. We get to see love walk through the door everyday," said Priest.
At that very moment, a man walked through the door. The time was impeccable, yet coincidental.
"Hi Lori. I'm sorry to interrupt you for just a second," said the man.
"Hi," replied Priest.
"My name is Jake (Baggaley.) I'm with Mountain America Credit Union," he said.
"Hi Jake," said Priest.
"How are you?" Baggaley asked.
"I'm good. How are you?" replied Priest.
"Doing so good. We heard about the Ronald McDonald House and everything you guys are doing for the community here in Idaho Falls and the Snake River Plain. We're so excited to be able to Pay It Forward to you today because we know that you guys have made such a difference in our community," said Baggaley.
"Oh my goodness," said Priest.
"And you are going to continue to do so. And so we wanted to give you guys $500 to Pay It Forward to the Ronald McDonald House Charities," said Baggaley, pulling cash out of an envelope.
"Oh my goodness. Thank you much!" said Priest.
"Thank you so much for all that you guys do," said Baggaley.
"That's so good. Oh wow. What a great surprise!" said Priest. "That was so fun!"
The Ronald McDonald Family Room is available to anyone with a pediatric patient at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center. There are no qualifications needed.
The family room is hosting its 5th annual 'Fundraising for Families' campaign March 11-13. The goal is to raise $70,000 to support families. Generous sponsors will provide matching funds. One-hundred percent of the money will stay at the Ronald McDonald Family Room in Idaho Falls. A donation can be made at this link. Priest also said a donation can be mailed at 3200 Channing Way, Ste. 106, Idaho Falls, Idaho 83404 or it can be dropped off directly at the family room so the donor can see the place. It is in the southeast corner of Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center. Enter through the south doors of the East Falls Clinics facing Sunnyside Road.
"Pay It Forward" stories air the second Wednesday of every month. If you know of a nonprofit organization or someone who deserves to be recognized for their contributions to the area, click on "News" then "Pay It Forward" under the menu stack at the top left of our homepage. Fill out the submission form, or send an email to news anchor Todd Kunz at email@example.com.