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MAKING A DIFFERENCE
New Ronald McDonald House gets rave reviews
The new Ronald McDonald House
wowed officials and some families it will
serve at a Dec. 17 ribbon cutting.
“I was overwhelmed when I walked
in,” said Donna Hyland, president and
CEO of Childrens Healthcare of Atlanta,
about the luxurious, hotel-style building at
5420 Peachtree-Dunwoody Road in San
dy Springs. Of the roughly 350 Ronald
McDonald Houses worldwide, said Hy
land, who has served on the internation
al charity’s board, “I’m willing to bet this
is the best.”
The 31-bedroom facility, which opened
for business Dec. 21, houses families of ail
ing children when they are treated in local
hospitals, especially CHOA’s Scottish Rite.
Beth Howell, president and CEO of At
lanta Ronald McDonald House Charities,
said they call it “the house that love built.”
An unusual feature of Pill Hill’s house that
attracted attention is a three-story “tree-
house” in the lobby. It’s an elevator shaft
decorated to appear tree-like, with two
treehouse-style play rooms built into it.
More than a hundred people attend
ed the ribbon cutting, including many lo
cal McDonald’s restaurant operators, who
were among those contributing more than
$ 18 million to build the facility. The hous
es are run separately from the restaurant
chain, but get major financial support
from it. An actor portraying restaurant
mascot Ronald McDonald, who declined
to give his real name, joined the ribbon
“We go all over the world,” the Ronald
McDonald actor said. “This [house] really
stands up as one of the top ones.”
Most importantly, the facility im
pressed the families who will use it, includ
ing the Winstons ofValdosta, Ga. Son Er
ick Jr. needed a kidney transplant in 2009,
just shy of his sixth birthday, and father
Erick Sr. was his organ
donor. Erick Jr. contin
ues to need treatment at
Scottish Rite. Instead of
a four-hour drive from
southern Georgia, the
Winstons can stay blocks
away and take a 24-hour
shuttle to the hospital.
The Winstons have
stayed in other Ronald
McDonald Houses, in
cluding one in Atlanta,
but they expressed aston
ishment at the Pill Hill
“I’m speechless. The kids love the tree-
house,” said mother Shaneka Winston.
“It’s like a mini resort,” added Erick Sr.
“They treat everybody like that’s their
whole house. It’s fun,” said Erick Jr.
The Winstons’ stay in other Ronald
McDonald Houses have ranged from days
to months. “It’s a home away from home,”
said Shaneka. “There’s a fee if you can pay.
They don’t press you to pay.”
“Just money-wise.. .can you imagine
staying at a hotel three months?” said Er
For the Winstons, the biggest luxury is
staying close to Scottish Rite and Dr. Ed
win Smith, who has long treated Erick Jr.
“The level of care, it’s unreal,” said Erick Sr.
about Scottish Rite.
“We need more facilities like this,” said
Shaneka. But the Pill Hill house had a
long road to expanding.
ARMHC opened an Atlanta house in
1979, followed by the Peachtree-Dun
woody location—originally an 11-bed-
room house—in 1994. Both saw heavy
demand and wait lists, leading to the con
struction of new facilities in recent years.
The Atlanta house, near CHOA’s Eg-
ED WOLKIS PHOTOGRAPHY
The new Ronald McDonald House located
at 5420 Peachtree-Dunwoody Road.
leston site, was rebuilt with 50 bedrooms
Efforts to expand the Pill Hill house
began more than a decade ago. Fulton
County approved the project in 2005,
prior to the existence of the city of Sandy
Springs. But a lawsuit from neighbors de
layed it. The groundbreaking finally came
A spokeswoman said that the new
house’s capacity should prevent wait lists
for families in need.
For information on eligibility to stay at
the house, call 404-315-1133 or see arm-
Back row, from left, Javier Goizueta, with McDonald’s and
Coca-Cola, Beth Howell, president and CEO of Atlanta Ronald
McDonald House Charities, “Ronald McDonald,” Donna Hyland,
president and CEO of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and
Thomas Kirbo, ARMHC’s board chairman, join children at
the ribbon cutting for the new facility on Dec. 17.
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