ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Being stuck in a hospital is never ideal. Neither patients nor loved ones want to be there. 

However, a new addition to one hospital is changing that gloomy feeling.

“We heard from families who said we needed this, that it was just really hard,” said Lisa Suprenand, the executive director of Ronald McDonald's House Charities Tampa Bay. “They didn’t want to leave their child’s bedside. This is a way that we could get to get them and support them where they were.”

A new cart is roaming the halls at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. The “Family Room On The Go” cart is bringing comfort items to parents of sick children. 

The brightly-painted cart wheels easy to eat meals, snacks, hygiene products, and fun activities to parents anchored to a child’s bedside. The 'JHACH' cart was made possible in part to a TEGNA Foundation grant of $10,000.

“Our children are more important, but it’s nice when someone just delivers small things to make our day,” said Aaron Coonley, whose child had been admitted at JHACH for nearly three weeks. “It really does mean a lot.”

The same goes for Manuel Ayala. This daughter has been fighting for life for weeks. He expects to be at the hospital for another few months. He and his girlfriend sifted through the cart of items staged outside their child’s patient room on Tuesday.

“You don’t know what to think, you’re nervous," he said. "It’s an emotional roller coaster ride for everyone who is here. It definitely helps."

More than 2,000 families have benefitted from the RMHC meals initiative, but the cart will take that outreach to a new level. 

RMHC goodies to help parents

Suprenand heard from families that simple everyday items were hard to come by because obtaining them often meant a parent of a sick child would have to leave the bedside to get them. 

The debut of the Family Room On-The-Go Cart means that precious time spent away from a sick child is cut out. 

“Which is a big deal for a parent,” admitted Ayala, “because everybody wants to be with their kid.”

The Ronald McDonald House Charities, which aims to provide a “home-away-from-home” for families with children receiving medical treatment in bay area hospitals, offers three houses in St. Petersburg and one in Tampa. There are a total of 80 bedrooms with private baths.

Legend Anderson has been in St. Petersburg for treatment for his child for a few weeks. His grandmother served on the board of the Ronald McDonald House Charities in Salt Lake City. 

Now, as a recipient of its care, he’s impressed with the cart.  

“When you think about what you need in life, it’s shelter, food, security. They provide all of those,” he said. “It’s like bringing the house to you.”

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