Goodbye Alberta and hello Saskatchewan. We drove a total of 738km from Edmonton to Lloydminster, Prince Albert, and Saskatoon. This was a very eventful day as we approached the one-quarter mark of our Drive. The support continues to pour in beyond expectations and it continues to be a very humbling experience for us.
We have thus far traveled about 2,400km and had a bit of a close call on the roads and it was not even from another driver. Out of nowhere, a crop duster plane flew in front of us which made our hearts race a bit. Mark caught a great picture of this as we were about just two seconds away from its path. Later on in the day, we even had to pass a truck on the shoulder lane since it was transporting an entire house! Once our nerves had calmed down a bit, we stopped to check out a wheat field which was just about waist high.
Our first stop on this day was at the Ronald McDonald Family Room in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. We met the affable Nadia, who explained that the Room opened in September 2016 and has served over 600 unique families with close to 8,000 visits to date. A lot of the families coming in are from rural communities with 85% being First Nation families. The 1,300 square foot Room features a kids play area, kitchen equipped for baking, living room, laundry services, nap areas, private bathroom and shower.
Thank you Nadia for the great tour, awesome shirts, and for your dedication to helping out others.
Our last stop for the day was to the Ronald McDonald House in Saskatoon (RMHSK). Upon arrival, we saw the CTV news crew stationed in front of the House getting prepped up for a “live hit.” We were greeted so warmly by the staff, led by Tammy, who gave us part one of our House tour.
The Saskatoon House originally opened in 1985 and had undergone an expansion in 2014 to now feature 34 rooms for families to stay in. We absolutely loved how homely it feels with the hundreds of pieces of hand-crafted artwork that were all generously donated and the subtle recognition given to the House’s sponsors. No big plaques, just simple black text accents that blend in well. However, one thing that did stand out as odd was the rear-end of a beaver in the wall near the front foyer (more about this later). Tammy took us to one of several sitting rooms and we could not help but notice how meticulously tidy the House has been kept. The collection of animated characters were neatly assembled in a cabinet and the kitchen was spotless.
The Home for Dinner program holds a special place in my heart because this was how I was first introduced to RMHC back in 2013 when I was invited with colleagues to prepare dinner at the old Vancouver House. On this night, a major accounting firm made an excellent three course meal featuring delicious pulled pork sandwiches.
Continuing our part one tour, Tammy showed us the basement where there was plenty of space for the kids to run around. There was a Quilt Room, Fitness Room, and Games Room, but my favourite was the Fun Forest Room. Remember that beaver on the main floor foyer? He’s trying to make his was down into the Fun Forest where his friends are. Seeing all the toys in this room just makes me want to be a kid all over again.
Then it was time to take in a bunch of deep breaths for the CTV “live hit” interview with Matt. You know that feeling of being nervous and worried that you just might embarrass yourself in front of so many people? Well that did not happen because I could feel an entire community supporting me which made it much easier to share our story and RMHC’s mission. Special thanks Matt for the opportunity to tell our story and to Kim for making this even possible. Kim did an outstanding job communicating with me in advance of our visit and managed to line up a printed story, “live hit” broadcast, and taped TV interview (more about this on Day 5).
CTV News at Six Saskatoon for Tuesday, August 22, 2017. Clip begins at 26:40. Please note that you will have to fast forward a lot if viewing from a mobile device.
Part two of the tour resumed on the upper floors with Marcelline who is so passionate about the Saskatoon House. You can tell that she is a terrific mother as she brought her lovely daughter to the House that day and you could sense positive values being instilled in her. Marcelline gave us a peak into a few bedrooms and the common denominator was that they are all five-star caliber. We liked that some rooms have open showers for easy wheelchair access. There was so much wonderful artwork on display and one mural of Saskatchewan really stood out. Marcelline had so many remarkable stories to share including one generous family that paid for the design of an entire room. My favourite story was about the group of grade 11 students from Eastend School who wanted to raise $30,000 in order to Adopt A Room at the House. Basically they auctioned off anything and everything they could get their hands on. They ended up raising over $65,000 and Adopted two rooms! Much respect to those dedicated students of Eastend School on making such a meaningful contribution!
It is always a pleasure connecting with other volunteers and we met Melissa who had been doing laundry and folding clothes for the families. It is inspiring to see wonderful people such as herself giving generously of her time to help out others. She even made a donation to our fundraiser in memory of her Mom & Dad. Thank you Melissa! We also got to meet Cathy and Anita whose baking are the talk of the House! Both of them left us with bags of baked goodies which makes you want to go back for more. Thank you Cathy and Anita!
There are not enough words to express how incredibly kind the staff and volunteers of the Ronald McDonald House Saskatchewan chapter were to us. They treated us so well with a warm reception and gave us so many wonderful gifts which included the “Built by Love in Saskatchewan” shirts, delicious baked goods, hand-written notes, mugs, and memories that touched our hearts. Thank you again for welcoming us into your community.
1st picture (Left to right: Mark, Kim, Anita, Dorianne, Cathy, Marcelline, Deanne, Alex)
2nd picture (Left to right: Mark, Kim, Anita, Dorianne, Cathy, Marcelline, Melissa, Alex)
Next stops are Regina, Virden, and Winnipeg.