Hospital’s new family room provides home-like haven Extension of Ronald McDonald House is first one on East Coast

Staff Writer

By John Burton

Hospital’s new family room provides home-like haven
Extension of Ronald McDonald House is
first one on East Coast

LONG BRANCH — Helping families address the trauma of dealing with a seriously ill child is the mission of Ronald McDonald House. Helping Ronald McDonald House to help these families is the purpose of the newly established Ronald McDonald Family Room, located at Monmouth Medical Center.

This week, Monmouth Medical Center, located on Second Avenue, held a dedication ceremony for the new family room, that will work with Ronald McDonald House to assist families who have young members being treated in the hospital.

"This room continues the mission of our house," announced Alexis Tucci, chairman of the board of trustees for Ronald McDonald House of Long Branch.

Located in the medical center’s Mary Stavola Children’s Pavilion, the family room provides relatives of pediatric patients a place where they can take some time in a setting that resembles a home environment.

The room contains comfortable furniture, a television, a VCR, and computers with online capability and games.

"We try to take them away from the medical thing even while in the hospital," said Joan Wills, a member of the board of trustees.

The medical center, working with Ronald McDonald House, also provides a child life specialist to assist the patients, and any siblings, in doing the things children do: playing, drawing and coloring.

This is an attempt, Wills said, to establish a sense of normalization at a very traumatic time for the children and their families.

"Our mission is to be a home away from home," she said.

The Ronald McDonald Family Room is the only one on the East Coast and one of only three in the country, Tucci said.

This particular facility was dedicated to the memory of Andrew Savastano, who died in August.

Savastano owned and operated McDonald’s restaurants in Ocean Township, Eatontown and West Long Branch, and had been active in helping establish Ronald McDonald House, and aiding in the organization’s growth.

"This is something my dad worked very hard for," said Christine Savastano.

Ronald McDonald House was founded in 1972 in Philadelphia by Ray Kroc, who built the fast-food chain into a multimillion dollar empire.

Since then, there have been 203 houses established internationally, Tucci said.

Ronald McDonald House of Long Branch was started in 1987, and since then has assisted more than 1,800 families by providing a comfortable, home-like environment while they help care for ill young family members, according to Tucci.

Its annual budget is $300,000, which, Tucci said, is raised through community support, corporate underwriting, and fund-raisers.

The family room cost $100,000 and that money was obtained through a fund-raising dinner-dance held at the Sheraton Hotel, in Eatontown, over the summer, according to Barbara Halsband, chairwoman of the medical center’s fund-raising committee.