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Photo tour: New Ronald McDonald House ‘the best place you never want to stay’

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Future in Focus Downtown - Mutual of America

Just a year after construction started, the new Boise Ronald McDonald House will start welcoming families in coming weeks.

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Last year, the facility turned away more than 170 families due to lack of space in its current facility on Warm Springs Ave. in Boise. The new house, right next door will nearly triple capacity.

With 47 rooms on two levels, the space is expansive. It triples the amount of space available in the current house. It serves families of children seeking medical care at local hospitals, including both St. Luke’s and Saint Alphonsus.

Over 18 months, the Idaho-based charity raised $15.3 million to fund the new facility.

A welcome to the house

Ronald McDonald House entrance
Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev
Boise Ronald McDonald House lobby
Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

The lobby of the house is anchored by a pair of large art pieces. One, with Wood Lab Studios in Eagle combines wood, acrylic, and lighting to create a dynamic piece. Another shows the names of donors to the house – more than 450 people.

Ronald McDonald House intake
Plumlee shows off one of the spaces in the building during a tour Thursday. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev
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A small room off the lobby allows intake in a quiet place.

“They’ll come in, sit down, relax. We’ll have toys for the kids – like you are in someone’s home. It’s an environment that is comfortable. We’ll work through that intake process in a place that’s private.”

A living space for all

New living space
Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

Each family has a private bedroom and bathroom, but other spaces are shared.

“We have a large living area here, and alcoves throughout the building with smaller space,” Plumlee said.

The wave of a wand

The living space has something extraordinary. A secret room. When older siblings check-in, they get a coupon for a toy that they get to pick. Instead of grabbing one out of a plastic tub in the old house, a bit of magic takes place.

“Now, they have a wand that they wave in front of Ronald, and then the door opens,” Plumlee said.

A secret room
Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev
A secret space. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev
Ronald McDonald House Boise
Toys! Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

“Our director of house operations Mike Krause and our architect Ian came up with it, and a ton of subcontractors came together to make this happen,” she said. “It required so many specialties. Just really when you think about the love and creativity and the talent that went into building this space – this is a perfect example of it.”

The goal of many of the little touches in the building is to help make a tough time a little easier.

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“Nobody wants to be here. Especially if you’re a kid. But we are the best place you never want to stay. Period,” she said.

Kitchens to gather in

Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

The current house just has one small kitchen for both volunteers and families. The new facility has a series of separate but interconnected kitchens.

“Where do people gather? The kitchen and the dining room. They gather around food,” Plumlee said. “It really is an important part of that support network for families. It’s just very therapeutic for them.”

More outdoor space

Ronald McDonald
Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

A large outdoor area features a playground and more to come.

“We’ll have a healing garden out back, there are some benches out back that will be intertwined throughout,” she said.

More play space

Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

The new playroom sits adjacent to the dining room, allowing parents to see their kids but have a conversation. Currently, the playroom sits in the old house’s basement.

Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

A separate playroom for older kids features life-size board games, video games and a variety of toys.

Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

Home away from home

Private living spaces feature natural light and modern touches of home, including private bathrooms. Some feature window seats and different rooms feature different numbers of beds to accommodate many family combinations.

Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev
Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev
Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

RMHC swapped land with St. Luke’s Health System for the new house. Its old facility will become the property of St. Luke’s, which plans to use it for families without children who are staying at the hospital, according to Plumlee.

A public open house is set fort Saturday, February 1 from noon to 5pm, where the public can tour the house.

Don Day
Don is the founder and editor of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow.

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