Ronald McDonald House Westmead receives a $6 million National Stronger Regions Fund grant

Grand vision: Ronald McDonald House Westmead executive officer Mike Thomas and marketing development manager Belinda Woolford can't wait for the new facility to be built at the existing site. Picture: Gene Ramirez

Grand vision: Ronald McDonald House Westmead executive officer Mike Thomas and marketing development manager Belinda Woolford can't wait for the new facility to be built at the existing site. Picture: Gene Ramirez

A bigger and better Ronald McDonald House at Westmead is closer to reality.

The home away from home for sick kids and their families was recently awarded a $6 million grant in the federal government’s National Stronger Regions Fund.

Of almost 500 organisations across Australia that applied for funding, only 66 projects were successful.

Ronald McDonald House Westmead is now just $3 million away from the $31 million needed for the project.

“It means we can finish the facility,” executive officer Mike Thomas told the Sun.

“The end is in sight.”

Premier Mike Baird and health minister Jillian Skinner attended a ceremony to mark the start of construction of the four-storey facility a year ago.

“We have cranes assessing the site and 20-30 trucks here each day,”  Mr Thomas said.

“We’re just about to start laying the concrete slab for the underground car park. We’re hopeful it will be completed by the end of 2017 but it’s more likely early 2018.”

The existing facility can only house 23 families at any one time and was home to 537 families last year.

The new facility will almost triple its capacity to 60 families staying at any one time and cater for at least 1360 families each year.

There will be scope to expand the new facility in the future. “It will have 15 self-contained units, compared to [the] five we have now,” he said.

The facility provides free accommodation for families from regional NSW, interstate and overseas while their seriously ill children are treated at The Childrens Hospital at Westmead. It turns away 400 families each year.

“There isn’t another facility like us that provides accommodation for families for an unlimited time from one night for up to a few years,” Mr Thomas said.

“We had a 97 per cent occupancy rate last month and we’re working in partnership with a local hotel which offers discounted rates. But some families are paying commercial hotel rates.”

Mr Thomas plans to raise the final $3 million next year.

“We’re in discussions with Channel Seven to do another telethon next year,” he said.

“We’re still meeting with as many people as we can as there are a number of other things that can also be done.”

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