Avery Joy Berner, 5, who was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid...

Avery Joy Berner, 5, who was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in December 2022, has to undergo monthlong cycles of chemotherapy at Stony Brook Children's Hospital. The girl and her parents, Marlena and Jack Berner, of Shoreham, use the Ronald McDonald Family Room in the hospital on Thursday.  Credit: Danielle Silverman

A Ronald McDonald family room at the only children’s hospital in Suffolk County has fully reopened three years after it was shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 900-square-foot room at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital had been serving 3,500 families a year who used it as a respite while their children were in the hospital, said Matt Campo, CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities NY Metro.

The room has a shower, kitchen, meals and other amenities.

It was closed at the start of the pandemic in March 2020, as hospitals across the state instituted strict isolation procedures to prevent spread of the deadly virus. It reopened partially last November with a limit of four hours a day and one family at a time.

It fully reopened last week after the hospital and state health officials determined it would be safe to do so. It now operates eight hours a day and with no limit on the number of families that can be there at the same time.

“It’s really exciting that now we get to reopen,” Campo said. “This is a really special place that gives families an opportunity to step out of the clinical environment and into a space that’s really homelike. When families enter this space they’re able to lean on each other for support. It’s really the magic of this program.”

One family said the room was a godsend as they dealt with their 5-year-old daughter who's undergoing chemotherapy for Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).

“They have extremely friendly volunteers that are there for us to vent … or just help us out so we can get through this nightmare that my family is going through,” said Marlena Berner, a Shoreham resident whose daughter, Avery Joy, is a patient in the hospital.

The girl undergoes a month of chemotherapy, returns home for two weeks, and then returns to the hospital for another month. The cycle should be completed by July, her mother said.

She and her husband, Jack, alternate staying overnight at the hospital, so the Ronald McDonald room is extremely helpful, she said.

“It’s nice to have a space to go and use the microwave — that is one of the biggest things,” she said. Her relatives prepare homemade meals for them that they can reheat in the microwave, she added.

About 50 volunteers take turns throughout the day staffing the room, where they offer families snacks and drinks, Campo said. They also have a cart that they roll around to rooms to offer items to the young patients and their families.

Campo said his group was looking for more volunteers so they could open the room beyond its current noon to 8 p.m. schedule.

The group also is hoping to construct a Ronald McDonald House next to the hospital where families could stay overnight. Currently, many like the Berner family spend nights in the hospital room of their children.

The organization has raised $18.5 million toward the $30 million project, he said. Once they hit $24 million they can break ground.


About 50 volunteers take turns staffing the Ronald McDonald Family Room at Stony Brook Children's Hospital.

Families are offered snacks and drinks while the room is open from noon to 8 p.m. daily.

A charity organization is hoping to build a Ronald McDonald House next to the hospital where families could stay overnight. It has raised $18.5 million for the $30 million project.

Source: Matt Campo, CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities NY Metro

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