Volunteer helps families staying at Ronald McDonald House

Longtime Winnipeg volunteer dedicated to reducing stress for out-of-town families staying at Ronald McDonald House while their unwell children undergo treatment here


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Helen Halpin’s desire to help a family dealing with cancer has turned into three decades of assisting countless families with children who are ill.

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Helen Halpin’s desire to help a family dealing with cancer has turned into three decades of assisting countless families with children who are ill.

It was 1993 when the child of someone Halpin knew was diagnosed with cancer. The diagnosis inspired Halpin to start volunteering at Ronald McDonald House, which offers families from outside Winnipeg a place to stay while their children receive treatment at city hospitals.

Halpin’s acquaintance didn’t need Ronald McDonald House, but she figured it was a way to support families in similar situations.

Now 69, the retired teacher volunteers at the house twice a month. She helps with everything from baking and meal preparation to housekeeping and administrative work.

“You feel like you’re supporting families in need and just helping make things less stressful for them,” Halpin says. “The staff there are great and… you do keep busy. There’s always something to do.”

Previously located on Bannatyne Avenue, Ronald McDonald House opened a new facility on Juno Street last September.

The 60,000-square-foot house is only two blocks from Health Sciences Centre Children’s Hospital and supports up to 40 families at a time.

“It’s meaningful when families say that they feel safe and secure in a place where they can feel close to their child,” Halpin says, adding her parents were both volunteers who inspired her interest in getting involved in the community.

In addition to her involvement at Ronald McDonald House, she volunteers at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, Prairie Theatre Exchange, Manitoba Theatre For Young People and the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival.

“It’s (about) getting out and meeting different people,” she says.

Halpin is a valued volunteer who helps not only at the house, but also with the charity’s annual gala dinner and golf tournament fundraising events, says Anna Nosol, volunteer manager.

“She’s the volunteer who’s willing to step up and do whatever we need,” Nosol says. “She’s always early, prepared, always with a smile. She’s great.”

In addition to the Juno Street facility, Ronald McDonald House Charities Manitoba operates the Ronald McDonald Family Room at Children’s Hospital.

It’s a 3,500-square-foot space where families can rest and relax while remaining close to their child.

Between the two facilities, Ronald McDonald House relies on about 50 volunteers, Nosol says.

“Without them, there’s no way we would be able to do everything we’re doing for the families,” she says.

Nosol is currently looking for more service-oriented, compassionate and reliable folks to volunteer at the house and family room.

Volunteers help with a variety of tasks, including giving house tours, preparing guest rooms, baking, light cleaning and organizing common spaces and yard and garden care.

Ronald McDonald House asks volunteers to work a minimum of one daytime, evening or weekend shift every two weeks. Shifts are four hours in length.

Visit rmhcmanitoba.org to fill out an application form.

“If people are looking for somewhere to volunteer, Ronald McDonald House is a great place,” Halpin says.

If you know a special volunteer, please contact aaron.epp@gmail.com


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