Volunteer collaboration with Ronald McDonald House
A helping hand

Significant collaboration between DLL and Ronald McDonald House

Since 2015, DLL has had a long-term and significant collaboration with Ronald McDonald House in the Nordic region. “We’re working in Sweden, Denmark and Finland where the organisation is active,” says Susanne Glykofrydis, General Manager Nordics, DLL. The aim of Ronald McDonald House is to provide families in need of specialist care with safety in an uncertain and chaotic environment and to help them live a relatively normal life.

A short walk from Karolinska University Hospital in Huddinge is the Ronald McDonald House. A familiar, homely patient residence for families with a seriously ill child who needs specialist hospital care. Sweden has a number of Ronald McDonald houses, all located near hospitals that offer different specialist treatments. At the Ronald McDonald House in Huddinge, they deal with patients from Karolinska, Astrid Lindgren’s Children’s Hospital.

Here, the main groups of patients are children with severe blood disorders, children having stem-cell transplants, children with liver or kidney disease who in many cases are having a transplant, and children with rare and/or chronic diagnoses, such as cystic fibrosis. Another group of patients receiving specialist care in Huddinge comprises children receiving a cochlear implant, a hearing implant that is surgically placed in the child’s auditory nerve. Gothenburg and Lund focus on specialist cardiac care, Linkoping on mixed diagnoses and Uppsala on cancer tumours.

The benefit of the Ronald McDonald House is that the entire family, including parents and siblings, can stay at the house for as long as the child is being treated at the hospital. After a full day of treatment, they return ‘home’ to their House in the afternoon/evening, creating a more pleasant and safer environment for the whole family. Currently, only one parent is allowed to sleep over in the hospital, which means that the family would have to be split up, if it were not for the Ronald McDonald House; that would add stress to an already incredibly tough situation. Families are usually referred from other regions, so they could be hundreds of miles from home.
“The healthcare staff say they notice a big difference in a sick child’s ability to cope with tougher treatments and recover faster, in the parents being less stressed, and the whole family faring better when they’re able to stay with us,” says Agnieszka Eriksson, Organizational Lead, Ronald McDonald House Huddinge.

Agnieszka Eriksson, Organizational Lead, Ronald McDonald House Huddinge

The Ronald McDonald House
The House itself is a large, cosy villa. Each family has a large private room that can accommodate up to five adults, with an ensuite bathroom. There are two shared kitchens, four living rooms, dining rooms, play and games rooms and large-capacity laundry facilities. There is a large garden with playgrounds, fruit trees and lots of greenery.
“For the most part, families don’t come to us because they need a bed, but because they need some normality. Trying to keep young children amused in an enclosed hotel room or sterile hospital corridors from morning to evening during stays that can go on for months is unthinkable, even for a family where everyone is well. At the House, families have the things they could do at home: they can socialise, cook, play and be home-schooled. They can chill out at the end of the week, or put on a party when it’s someone’s birthday. We have lots of things they can borrow: carts, bicycles, video games, books, toboggans and even a car. Whether the family stays for a couple of nights or a whole year, they can feel right at home here,” Agnieszka explains.


Whether the family stays for a couple of nights or a whole year, they can feel right at home here"

“We know that one of the best aspects is meeting other families in a similar situation. Children who may not have been able to play with friends before due to the risk of infection can make new friends in similar circumstances here. Parents can share their difficulties with others who truly understand. We know that many life-long friendships start here,” says Agnieszka. When there is not a pandemic, the family can also receive visits from grandparents or friends.

How it is run
Ronald McDonald Hus and Ronald McDonald Barnfond were established in Sweden by Paul and Irene Lederhausen, whose daughter Erica was born with cystic fibrosis and tragically passed away at age 16. Ronald McDonald Hus is an independent, non-profit foundation where every krona is spent on running it. The board includes representatives from the hospital, representatives for various patient organisations, and for the parents and the local business community.

Through cooperation agreements with the hospital, the House receives a small amount of reimbursement from the sick child’s home county council towards operating costs.
“We’re actively working to reduce costs through sponsors and donations. For major renovations, projects and little extras for the families’ everyday lives, we’re totally dependent on sponsors and donors,” says Agnieszka. “The activities are carried out with a few employees covering a total of 4 services, and some 20 volunteers. We also receive a lot of help from companies that arrange volunteering days with their employees here, usually in the way of gardening or family meals. We’re very proud and grateful that we can be a hands-on organisation where there’s something for almost everyone to help with. Everything people do for us makes a direct difference to the families,” Agnieszka continues.

The Ronald McDonald House in Huddinge is the first of five Houses in Sweden. It opened in 1993 and has 14 family rooms, which also makes this House the smallest in Sweden (the largest House is in Gothenburg, with 41 family rooms).
“Despite our small size, we’re the House that takes by far the most families per year, typically between 900 and 1,100 families. Since we opened, more than 23,000 families have stayed with us. The children are of all ages, from newborns to 18–20 (depending on the county council) and, if there is space, we also accept families where one parent is sick,” Agnieszka says with pride. The hospital books the families in for accommodation and prioritises families according to needs if there is a shortage of space.

“Despite the gloomy background to why families have to be here, the atmosphere is uplifting and usually happy. Children are very practical: you’re sad when it hurts and you’re tired when you feel tired; otherwise, you’re happy, and as busy and chirpy as any other child. You’d hardly know which children are sick and which are healthy (siblings) if it were not because they’ve lost their hair, put on weight due to heavy medication or if you see tubes poking out from under their sweater. And, for parents, it’s such a contrast from a set schedule and waiting for doctors in the hospital, to coming here to us – you soon see their shoulders relaxing and smiles spreading. Of course, sometimes the unthinkable happens and a child dies. It’s often a heavy burden not only for the affected family but also for everyone else concerned. But this often also serves as a reminder to make the most of the little things, and that the most important thing is simply being together,” says Agnieszka.

Volunteering that makes a difference
DLL and Ronald McDonald House have been working together for a long time.
“Being able to contribute to society is an important part of DLL’s strategy and our core values. It’s a great thing to be able to offer our employees two days a year of paid volunteering. Our employees appreciate helping and doing their part for the Ronald McDonald Houses we work with,” says Susanne Glykofrydis, General Manager Nordics, DLL.

You amazing guys at DLL have been coming to us since 2015, helping year after year through volunteering"

“You amazing guys at DLL have been coming to us since 2015, helping year after year through volunteering, participating in our golf tournament and now you’ve given us a huge donation. We have lots of great photos and memories from deep-cleaning the laundry areas and rooms, helping with flea markets and countless hours labouring in the garden. Your commitment means an incredible amount to us; it feels just as good to see familiar faces as to hear you introducing new colleagues to our activities. We firmly believe that the House is like a magnet for kind people, people who feel a passion to help others. It means a great deal to us to count you as our House friends – you make a real difference to the families here,” says Agnieszka.

Spotlight on refurbishment of the House
Looking ahead, the spotlight is on refurbishment of the lower floor as the final step in a much-needed and longed-for interior renovation that began in 2019. Since Ronald McDonald House is dependent on donations for this type of investment and has not wanted to shut down in the meantime, refurbishment had to be done in stages. Now it’s finally time for the last six family rooms on the lower level, the dining rooms and halls to be freshened up. DLL is the proud sponsor of one of the family rooms, named Giraffe. It will be exciting for everyone involved to see the results and, above all, for the families who are staying in the house.
“It will be absolutely fantastic to finally be able to offer every family a really fresh and updated room with new beds and a bit more up-to-date equipment,” says Agnieszka. This is the first full renovation to be completed since Ronald McDonald House Huddinge opened, and most of the furniture had been in use for 28 years. The plan is for the renovation to be completed in Q1 2022.

“By the summer we hope to be able to start planning the groundworks. The garden also needs a makeover, especially the paths and general accessibility. Many people use pushchairs and wheelchairs, and we want everyone to be able to enjoy our great outdoor space. We think the project will need a few million kronor, and of course we hope for continued support from the surroundings. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that it can be finished in time for our 30th anniversary party,” Agnieszka concludes with a smile.