Bigger and better: Fargo's new Ronald McDonald House to open in May

FARGO -- The new Ronald McDonald House that broke ground last summer is going to be bigger and more accommodating once it opens in May. Construction started July 11 on the 30,000-square-foot new facility within walking distance of Sanford Medical...
Jill Christopher, executive director of the Ronald McDonald House, talks Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018, about the kitchen of the new 24-bedroom Ronald McDonald House nearing completion east of Sanford Medical Center Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

FARGO - The new Ronald McDonald House that broke ground last summer is going to be bigger and more accommodating once it opens in May.

Construction started July 11 on the 30,000-square-foot new facility within walking distance of Sanford Medical Center. On Giving Hearts Day this Thursday, Feb. 8, the public is invited to tour the soon-to-be finished building.

Once complete, Ronald McDonald House Charities will close its two existing locations, which have fewer rooms and amenities combined than this one new building.

It's being built on an acre of land donated by Sanford Health and will eventually have 24 rooms, each with two queen beds and its own bathroom that includes a tub and shower.

The building design aims for comfort during long-term stays, with children and families that are guests spending an average of 10 days there.

The three-story building will include plenty of amenities, including things currently lacking at the existing two houses in the community. The new Ronald McDonald House is set to feature things like an elevator, a fenced-in playground and picnic tables, a break room and offices for employees and useful rooms like a fully stocked kitchen, a library and a game room.

Other features are meant to address safety and sanitation concerns, such as individually controlled heating and cooling in each room as well as tiled carpet that can be easily replaced. At least one person will be on staff 24 hours a day to help ensure a comfortable experience.

Executive Director Jill Christopher said she's especially excited about the "magic room," which is decorated to emulate a cave that children will be able to access with a secret word. An automatic door will then reveal a selection of toys that they can choose from if they are having a rough day.

The charity has had some issues with overflow at its current facilities, and Christopher said they had to turn down 82 families in 2017 due to a lack of space.

"We're hoping we can make it at least two years before maxing out on capacity in the new building," she said.

Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Red River Valley has offered temporary housing for family members of sick children undergoing treatment at medical facilities in Fargo since 1982.