Home Sweet Ronald McDonald House

Atlantans Make a Difference for Families with Ill and Injured Children

Marcia and Howard Rohan have been residents of Brookhaven for more than 35 years. They have three children and live in a blossoming neighborhood. But when their 18-year-old son Jason was in a head-on car accident in 1990, their lives changed forever.

“One moment the world is one way, the way it’s supposed to be, and the next moment your life is turned upside down,” Marcia says.  “Although the accident happened 25 years ago and Jason is doing well today, the emotion of it never completely fades. It’s raw, real and I can bring myself right back to that night.”

Jason was the third child in the Rohan’s neighborhood to suffer from a brain injury during a span of nine months. Their community was shaken, but the Rohan’s were overwhelmed with how supportive their community remained. “The two other families encouraged and uplifted us during our experience and we were able to do the same for them,” describes Marcia. “Because of the impact our support system had on us, we wanted to do the same for others.”

Not long after Jason’s accident, the Rohan’s fulfilled their promise to help others by becoming volunteers at the Atlanta Ronald McDonald House on Peachtree Dunwoody Road near Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite. The Peachtree Dunwoody location is one of Atlanta Ronald McDonald House Charities’ (ARMHC) two Houses that provide accommodations and support services for families with ill and injured children. Since the Rohan’s first volunteered in 2004, their story has become a beacon of hope at the House. They empathize with the families and understand that words like cancer, accident, or transplant are words that change a child’s life as well as the lives of the entire family.

“My own family’s experience has helped me remember that bad days happen but it makes the victories all the more meaningful,” Marcia says.  “We love being able to laugh, cry, and celebrate with the families at ARMHC. It’s a safe haven for them to be exactly where they are, deal with their circumstances in the ways that feel most natural to them, but most importantly, to be together.”

The day that Marcia and Howard first walked into the Ronald McDonald House, they knew it was where they were meant to serve.  Today, they can be found making a meal for the families and sharing the joys of being a volunteer.  Although the families at the Houses are experiencing devastating circumstances, they are encouraged and uplifted by volunteers like Marcia and Howard. When Marcia encourages others to volunteer for one of the Houses, she tells them, “It’s a happy place.”

Volunteers are the heartbeat of the House. They help support worried parents so they can focus on what matters most, the health of their child. Currently, ARMHC needs individual or group volunteers to prepare meals or host activities for the families. There are also many wish-list items and registry needs to help furnish and stock the new Peachtree Dunwoody House, which is on track to open to families late this year.

For too long, limited capacity at the former 11-bedroom House on Peachtree Dunwoody Road forced ARMHC to turn away many families who were counting on a “home away from home” during a critical time in their lives. With the generous support of the local Atlanta community and beyond, an $18.5 million capital campaign was completed to fundraise and build a new House that will serve thousands more families for decades to come. It will feature 31 guest rooms with private baths, full ADA accessibility, a sustainable design built to LEED standards, a kitchen with dining areas and an innovative, indoor tree house to aid in healing through play.

“This new House will dramatically increase our impact and nearly triple our capacity to provide a welcoming home for families whose children are battling life threatening medical conditions,” says Beth Howell, president and CEO of Atlanta Ronald McDonald House Charities. “The quality of healthcare in Atlanta will improve as thousands more families in crisis will have a place to stay together and heal together.”

When completed, the new Peachtree Dunwoody Ronald McDonald House will empower families and children for successful outcomes by addressing their unique needs and sustaining them in the midst of difficult circumstances.  For more information on volunteering at the Peachtree Dunwoody House, please contact Volunteer Services Manager, Cat Lewis, at catherine.lewis@armhc.org.  To contribute items that will help make this new House a “home” to the families it serves, visit ARMCH.org