Inspiring People: Designer creates new rooms for Ronald McDonald House

Published: April 4, 2021 8:01 PM EDT

Families with children in Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida for days, even weeks, now have a place nearby to stay. The Ronald McDonald House of Southwest Florida has reopened with more rooms after closing because of the pandemic, but they are much more than a space to sleep: The people who designed them hope they bring families solace and strength.

Designer Pam Durkin will never forget her experience 17 years ago, waiting for her newborn son in medical care.

“When I had my son, Sean, he actually decided to arrive early; he ended up in the NICU for about 10 days,” Durkin said. “It’s like leaving a piece of yourself somewhere else.”

That’s why she jumped at the chance to help the Ronald McDonald House by donating materials and time to designing the extra rooms, with every detail carefully thought out to create spaces that will have practical, tangible benefits for their inhabitants.

“I used what I call pretty quiet materials and quiet colors,” Durkin said. “I really sat down and put some thought into how I was feeling.”

All the blue encourages rest, and the artwork provides hope to families dealing with the stress of having their little ones in the hospital across the street. Durkin interviewed the hospital staff when preparing her design to make things easier for them as well. As a result, the wraparound headboard attached to the wall was custom-designed, so staff doesn’t have to move heavy furniture between cleanings.

Durkin even thought about how to encourage the families when they leave, wishing parents luck or strength.

“I wanted something that they could take with them from this room and into the hospital that they could have a little word of encouragement,” Durkin said.

It’s encouragement from a mother who was once in their shoes and is now celebrating that premature son as he heads off to college.

The Ronald McDonald House planned to give raise money by offering public tours of the rooms when they were finished but couldn’t because of the pandemic. If you would like to help cover the free housing and food they give to families with children in the hospital, visit the charity’s website.