Blavatnik Family Foundation helps Ronald McDonald House New York deliver smiles to hospitalized children, their caregivers amid a global pandemic

Coordinating through a global pandemic, Ronald McDonald House New York (RMH-NY) faced a critical choice: halt services or dramatically adjust operations to continue life-changing services. An unwavering commitment to seriously ill children and families drove their final decision to rapidly adapt operations and provide a seamless circle of support.

Over the past two years, the Blavatnik Family Foundation has provided essential aid to RMH-NY, and seeks to improve the wellness and health care experience of underserved NYC children and families seeking treatment for pediatric cancer and other serious pediatric illnesses at public hospitals. That includes Kings County Hospital Center, Elmhurst Hospital, Jacobi Medical Center, North Central Bronx Hospital and Staten Island University Hospital.

While the COVID-19 crisis shuttered in-person activities, RMH-NY reimagined their programs and services. Leveraging digital tools, they ensured immunocompromised children and families remained safe and had continued access to the compassionate hospitality, wellness, and stress-reduction programming needed for them to find healing, restoration, relaxation and recovery.

RMH-NY began by facilitating weekly Virtual Wellness Sessions, ensuring that caregivers had uninterrupted access to stress-relieving activities and exercises that allowed for an even greater reach to children and families throughout the city. By shifting the sessions online, caregivers could access the programs on their own schedule.


The support pamphlet given to caregivers with links to critical resources and support


“Through our conversations with families and caregivers, we learned they simply did not feel they could prioritize their own wellness while focusing on their child’s care inside the hospital,” said Ronald McDonald House New York Chief Programs Officer Nelida Barreto. “We thank the Blavatnik Family Foundation for providing us the resources needed to quickly adjust operations and provide on demand access to critical programs.”

Links and QR codes providing on demand access to programs made wellness and stress relief convenient and available for caregivers, ensuring they found respite when the time was right.

At partner hospitals, in lieu of traditional hospitality carts, which service pediatric hospital areas, RMH-NY curated and delivered “Programs to Go-Enrichment Series” packages for patients and siblings, and “Hospitality to Go” and “Wellness Packages” for parents and caregivers.

Packages are filled with a rotating selection of enriching games and activities, wellness and self-care items, and nutritious snacks for children and adults, that might otherwise have been inaccessible to them. Wellness Packages—including journals, lavender shower steamers and calming tea— provide a needed relief for bedside caregivers.


A wellness package delivered to caregivers by Ronald McDonald House New York with support from the foundation


The pandemic also brought food insecurity for families across the world. RMH-NY worked with partner restaurants and caterers s to bring healthy and nutritious food to parents, caregivers, and siblings at bedside in Kings County Hospital.

With the Family Room at Kings County closed due to COVID-19, the Family Room Coordinator used the room as a staging ground to assemble meals and distributed lunches once per week to parents and caregivers with children in NICU/PICU and Pediatrics, and snacks to patients and their visitors in Labor and Delivery. Hundreds of lunches were served, helping to alleviate hunger for families at the hospital and complement hospital-led efforts to bank and distribute nonperishable food.

A foundation spokesman said, “Facing what is likely one of the most challenging moments of their lives, these children, families and caregivers need a partner to be there for them. We’re proud to support Ronald McDonald House New York and all their volunteers who are making an invaluable difference in partner hospitals across the city.”