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McDonald’s restaurants donate gift cards to help families of pediatric patients being treated in Utah

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McDonald’s logo against blue sky. The store is giving free “Thank You Meals” to first responders starting Wednesday.

Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — McDonald’s restaurants donated $1,500 in gift cards to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Intermountain Area to provide the families of high-acuity pediatric patients with food as they remain in the area to receive treatment.

The donation, which will go toward around 100 gift cards, will be added to the numerous services the local Ronald McDonald House Charities is offering as COVID-19 sweeps across the country.

“It’s changed the world and it’s certainly changed our organization and the way which we carry out our mission,” said Carrie Romano, CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Intermountain Area.

Following social distancing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has altered the charity’s day-to-day operations, but Romano said it doesn’t deter the organization from carrying out its mission while still taking care to protect families and team members.

In order to do this, the Ronald McDonald House Charities in Salt Lake City temporarily suspended its hospital-based programs and moved about 40 guest families to “separate safe lodging” last week. The move also freed space in hospitals for health care providers to use as needed during the pandemic.

“The local hospitals canceled all nonurgent appointments and surgeries,” Romano said, explaining that the only families remaining in the Ronald McDonald Family Rooms at Primary Children’s Hospital last week are the most vulnerable families, such as those with children in the neonatal intensive care unit or pediatric intensive care unit, or those waiting for or who just received an organ transplant.

These families “don’t have a choice to go home right now” despite the COVID-19 threat because they came from rural parts of Utah, surrounding states, or even other countries so their children could receive urgent care, Romano said.

“We are trying to give them separate living quarters but then surround them with lots of practical support to relieve their financial burdens and to give them a great place to stay, food to eat, and transportation to and from the hospital,” she explained, emphasizing that the families must have their own space as they may have a child who is immunocompromised or vulnerable in other ways due to medical issues.

The organization hopes to provide families with services for 60 to 90 days, which is where the McDonald’s gift card donation comes in.

“As soon as we knew the Salt Lake City Ronald House would need to find ways to get meals to remaining families, the local McDonald’s owner/operators asked how they could help,” said Chris Sparrer Baer, a local McDonald’s owner and president of Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Intermountain Area board of directors. “The local owner/operators are consistently passionate about supporting our charity of choice and I am proud of how quickly they responded.”

Romano explained that they’ve been loading the gift cards in packages with groceries and other gift cards to distribute.

The gift cards don’t expire and can be used at any McDonald’s.

“I can’t over emphasize the impact that providing the guest families who have no ability to return home right now with something like the McDonald’s Arch Cards has on their ability to navigate this trying time,” Romano said.

She suggested that the community can help vulnerable families by donating gift cards for restaurants, food and gas, as well as money, which the charity can use to support families during the pandemic by helping them stay in separate lodging around the city.

Online donations can be made on the charity’s website.

“We are working on taking good care of these families because they have plenty to worry about on their own,” Romano said.