Helping support a home away from home for families with seriously ill children

jBankLogoThe skills that make a good bank manager can also be valuable in supporting organizations that contribute to our community’s quality of life. Jefferson Bank’s managers and employees participate in many social initiatives throughout the city, and Phyllis Trager’s work with Ronald McDonald House Charities of San Antonio (RMHCSA) is an excellent example.

Trager, Vice President and Banking Center Manager of Jefferson’s Alamo Heights Banking Center, knew of RMHCSA through the bank before they asked her to join their board two years ago. RMHCSA provides a home away from home for families who have a child being treated at a local hospital. Ronald McDonald House Charities of San Antonio operates three facilities in Bexar County and two in Laredo: free-standing houses in the Medical Center and on Lewis Street, and in-hospital facilities at Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, Laredo’s Doctor’s Hospital and Laredo Medical Center.

Soon after she joined the RMHCSA board, Trager became better aware of the value of Ronald McDonald House operations.

A few years ago, one of Trager’s fellow employees went into emergency preterm labor, and the baby was airlifted to Houston.

“When I heard that, I called Ronald McDonald House and found out there was a facility near the hospital where their baby was going to be. They ended up staying there for over 30 days. It’s not where you want to be – you want to be home with your child and have everything be ok, but when you need them, the Ronald McDonald Houses are there,” she said.

Like many RMH facilities, San Antonio’s centers offer families a combination of private and public spaces. Each family has access to a kitchen where they can cook for themselves. There’s a game room and other public spaces to relax. Recently, Trager said, televisions were donated to the houses so that every family can have a TV in their private suites. Ronald McDonald Houses are an economical alternative to hotels.  They offer the benefit of staff and the company of other families facing the emotional challenges of a child with a serious illness. It is a community of support and understanding.

“It’s just amazing the stories you hear. Ronald McDonald Houses are really vital to families with ill children.”

RMHCSA is facing a significant opportunity right now. Pediatric hospitals are blooming all over San Antonio. Christus Santa Rosa has dedicated its entire downtown campus to Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. UT Health Science Center San Antonio has joined forces with Vanguard Health System and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to build a new children’s hospital in the Medical Center. The free-standing hospitals join Methodist Children’s Hospital, which has provided pediatric acute care since 1998.

The concentration of children’s hospitals will bring families from all over Texas, Mexico and beyond. To meet the need, RMHCSA is looking at a parcel in the South Texas Medical Center for an expanded facility. In addition, RMHCSA is moving to a brand new, larger space as part of the renovations at Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. This home should becompleted by 2014.