February 28, 2023
Joanna Cruickshank, one of the volunteers supporting the Comfort Cart, speaks with Kyle Hinchcliffe, who’s been tending to a young child currently in care at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre Photo by Heather Kipling.
Along with bottled water and juices, granola bars and other snacks, the Comfort Cart provides tissues, reading material, activity books and hygiene items like toothbrushes. Volunteers from Ronald McDonald House circulate with the cart to the various units, offering items to families. Photo by Heather Kipling.
Together with Ronald McDonald House Charities Alberta and FortisAlberta, AHS celebrated the launch of a Comfort Cart, a new patient and family-centred initiative aimed at supporting families with children in care at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre. Ronald McDonald House Charities’ Comfort Cart program is supported by FortisAlberta’s Community Investment programs, which will keep the cart well-supplied with convenience items such as coffee, snacks and games. Gathered for the launch are, from left: Paula Anderson, FortisAlberta; Jennifer Clermont, Ronald McDonald House Charities Alberta; Sandi Sebastian, AHS; Annica Ollewagen, Ronald McDonald House volunteer; and Dave Bomhof, FortisAlberta. Photo by Heather Kipling.
Story & photos by Heather Kipling
RED DEER — A specially stocked cart and a group of volunteers are rolling out comforts for families with children in care at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre (RDRHC).
Circulating between five inpatient units at the hospital – including Pediatrics, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), labour and delivery, postpartum and the child and youth Addiction and Mental Health unit - the Comfort Cart offers up an assortment of little conveniences intended to help make the time in hospital a little easier for families.
“It can be incredibly stressful for families to have a child hospitalized. This cart is a way we can offer them a bit more comfort while they’re here with their child,” says Sandi Sebastian, interim senior operating officer for RDRHC and director of Women’s and Children’s Health Services. “Be it a snack, a toothbrush or a crossword puzzle, sometimes the small things of home can have a big impact and make a positive difference.”
In addition to bottled water and juices, granola bars and other snacks, the Comfort Cart provides tissues, reading material, activity books and hygiene items like toothbrushes. Volunteers from Ronald McDonald House who are dual registered with AHS circulate with the cart to the various units, offering items to families.
For parents like Kyle Hinchcliffe, who has a young child currently admitted in careat RDRHC, the cart was a comforting distraction.
“It’s a great thing for families,” he says. “My wife was just asking about getting a coffee before the cart arrived and suddenly, here it is, with hot, fresh coffee that we didn’t have to go anywhere for.”
Amy Klimosko, director for Child, Youth and Family Addiction and Mental Health services in Red Deer, adds: “We are so grateful for the support of Ronald McDonald House Charities Alberta (RMHC) and for the volunteers with the local Ronald McDonald House here in Red Deer in making this initiative possible and accessibly to our patients and families.”
“To be able to have a coffee, a snack or even grab a warm pair of socks after what tends to be a very stressful experience helps the healing of the full family, not just the healing of those in our care.”
Feb. 22 saw the cart make it inaugural tour of the units, with volunteer Joanna Cruickshank at the helm.
“The reaction has been so positive,” says Cruickshank. “There has been a lot of interest and engagement with staff who have taken an interest in what we’re offering for patients and families, and the reaction from families has been just wonderful to see. It’s a great feeling being able to make someone’s day a little brighter.”
“The Comfort Cart brings internationally recognized Ronald McDonald House hospitality to a child’s bedside at the hospital,” says Jason Evanson, CEO of RMHC Alberta. “Families often spend hours at the hospital. The program enables us to support more families outside of the House, and it plays an important role in enhancing family-centred care.”
Those little comforts also open up conversation, allowing the volunteers to provide personalized visiting and companionship.
“Whether we provide a fresh cup of coffee, a box of Lego, a book, board game or simply conversation with a volunteer, the Comfort Cart delivers a figurative hug to families who need a lift while dealing with pediatric medical treatment day in and day out,” adds Evanson.
Funding support to keep the cart supplied is provided by FortisAlberta’s Community Investment programs. For 15 years FortisAlberta’ has funded projects at both the Red Deer and Calgary Ronald McDonald House locations, committing to a lifetime gift of over $124,000.
“We’re so grateful for the support from Ronald McDonald House Charities Alberta for bringing the Comfort Cart to the hospital,” says Sebastian. “From the funding to ensure they’re supplied, to volunteers signing on to make the rounds to visit families, that kind of generous commitment has a significant impact on health delivery in so many ways.”