Rural families make Ronald McDonald House home away from home
It's not easy keeping up with 18-month old Ella Saltzman. She's about to go home to Bethel with her parents and her newborn brother, Clay.
"It wasn't real until he came out, and last night we're all alone, no nurses," said Clay's father, Ryan Saltzman. "This one relies on us, this one really relies on us."
The Saltzmans had their baby at the Alaska Native Medical Center, two weeks after they arrived in Anchorage. But they didn't stay at a hotel.
"It would have been tight to try and stay in a hotel for a couple of weeks," Saltzman said.
His family stayed at Ronald McDonald House, located on the ANMC campus.
"You think about how much a hotel is for one night, then, how much money you have to spend for the diapers, the wipes, and other things," said Clay's mother, Alison Saltzman.
This coming January will mark the second anniversary of Ronald McDonald House. It's set up primarily for families from rural areas with high-risk pregnancies, as well as pediatric patients and their families, who use ANMC. House manager Dianne McKinley says the house is designed to be more than just a hotel.
"This Ronald McDonald House provides a family room," McKinley said. "We have volunteers who do dinners for our patients, who really appreciate it, and we have a van that can take them shopping."
There are activities and games to keep youngsters busy.
"It allowed her to have things close by for her to do with Ella," Saltzman said.
Ronald McDonald House provides a home away from home for the families who use it, but it's also rewarding to the staff.
"It's rewarding when they come in with their newborn and show us, or, they're ready to go home," McKinley said.
Meanwhile, little Ella Saltzman is ready to go home with her parents, and the newest member of her family.
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