A bedroom designed for the Ronald McDonald House in New...

A bedroom designed for the Ronald McDonald House in New Hyde Park in 2014. The 42-bedroom facility is staffed mostly with volunteers who provide the comforts of a home and compassionate care that meet the unique needs of families with sick children. Credit: NEWSDAY/Audrey C. Tiernan

At every moment of challenge in our nation, we see it: regular people stepping up to help people in need.

It is the spirit of the volunteer that rallies us to the side of our neighbors to give them what we would want to receive ourselves: support, love and encouragement that there are better days ahead. 

The volunteer is the one who makes our society a better place, and the one who helps all of us when we are down.

We see this in action every day. People from Nassau and Suffolk counties pitch in — each in their own way — to provide support for families facing the reality of a sick child. Some of them are perhaps facing a life-or-death diagnosis. Others are recovering from illness or injury. 

Uprooted from their lives, these moms and dads, grandparents, foster parents and guardians can travel hours for lifesaving treatments. Without accommodation near a hospital, they endure long drives, lost jobs, worried siblings left at home and, for some, no place to sleep. They’re far from family and friends who give them support.

Our programs fill that need and our 42-bedroom Ronald McDonald House in New Hyde Park, located immediately adjacent to the Cohen Children’s Medical Center, is staffed mostly with volunteers who provide the comforts of a home and compassionate care that meet the unique needs of families with sick children.

For the last four decades, we have served an average of 1,000 families per year and given back 27,000 hours to the families to spend with their children that might have otherwise been wasted driving back and forth to hotels, to eat meals, or to do laundry. Everything a family needs for long-term accommodation can be found in our house.

As the need grows, so have our offerings. Ronald McDonald House now operates two family rooms at Stony Brook University Hospital, one in the Children’s Hospital and a newly opened one at the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit, each of which gives temporary respite to families who would otherwise spend hours and even days at their children’s bedside. The corresponding Hospitality a la Carte Cart, staffed by volunteers, brings refreshments and joy to the hospital rooms of children receiving hospital care.

And we are currently engaged in planning and fundraising for a new Ronald McDonald House in Suffolk County to serve eastern Long Island families who need our help there.

We are not alone. The work of volunteers across Long Island helps support dozens of worthy organizations. The holidays pose special challenges and require an enhanced response from those willing to put others before themselves. 

We need more volunteers. More compassion. More care. Our families depend on it.

On behalf of all of the Long Island organizations that depend on volunteers to deliver their essential services, thank you.

For more on how to volunteer, visit https://www.rmhcnym.org/volunteer/.  

This guest essay reflects the views of Matt Campo, chief executive of Ronald McDonald House Charities NY Metro.