Parents in the Wood River Valley facing a medical emergency with children have a place to go in Boise thanks to the Ronald McDonald House, a charitably funded home away from home for children in medical treatment and their families.

“Any family living outside of Ada County who has a sick child can stay with us,” said Taylor Munson, communications manager for the nonprofit Ronald McDonald House of Idaho. “Each year, about 10 to 15 percent of the families we serve come from the Wood River Valley, about 100 families per year, and this number continues to grow. A lot of people don’t know this since the house is physically located in Boise. But our impact spreads across Idaho and beyond.”

The Ronald McDonald House in Boise has been around since 1988, when it first opened in a four-room house. Since then it has expanded to a 47-room house.

“We’re coming up on one year in our new house, which is about three times bigger than our old one,” Munson said. “Families in need stay at the house with us for one night and others for many, many months. There is no cost for them to stay with us, as we are 100 percent supported by the community.”

The Gabe family of Hailey stayed at the Ronald McDonald house in 2007 when Jill Gabe’s daughter Maddy was born at 26 weeks in McCall and spent the next 67 days in the natal intensive care unit.

“She was our first child and we knew nothing about preemies and how long we would be in Boise,” Gabe said. “The staff at Ronald McDonald House saved us.”

Gabe said the staff made sure the couple had a place to lay their heads and reminded them to eat.

“They even helped distract us from the uncertainty of our daily lives and helped us keep our marriage strong by providing us dinner and skiing gift certificates and urging us to utilize them,” she said.

The Gabes’ extended family was spread out all over the country at the time and the Ronald McDonald House welcomed them as they came to see the new tiniest family member.

“Without Ronald McDonald House and those that support it by providing meals, donations and their time, we would have been lost,” Gabe said. “Our daughter is now 12 and a state wrestling champion.”

The first Ronald McDonald House opened in Philadelphia in 1974 as a partnership with the McDonald’s food chain and an NFL football team. Since then, over 365 Houses and other programs have been opened around the world in more than 43 countries and regions. Their common mission is to provide “a welcoming, comfortable environment for families during a very difficult time in their lives.”

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