Pipe bursts, forces Ronald McDonald House to close

Workers remove debris from a third-floor bedroom of Hyde Park’s Ronald McDonald House, 5444 S. Drexel Ave. The house was damaged over the weekend when a sprinkler system water supply pipe burst in the ceiling of the bedroom during last week’s frigid weather. (Photo by Marc Monaghan)

By SAMANTHA SMYLIE
Contributing Writer

The Ronald McDonald House, 5444 S. Drexel Ave., near the UChicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital, has been forced to close after experiencing significant flood damage to the building after a pipe burst on Feb. 1.

At about 1:30 am on Friday, a pipe burst on the third floor of the house which triggered the fire alarm, awakening families who were living there. The building can house up to 22 families. However, at the time of the incident, seven families were living there. After the fire alarm went off, families were gathered in the front foyer of the house.

The fire department arrived to assess the situation. Within a couple of hours, staff was able to safely evacuate families from the home and relocate them to hotels nearby.

When asked about the damages that were done to the house, Holly Buckendahl, CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana, said that damages depended “on the area of the house. On the first floor, where the kitchen is located, there is a lot of damage to the ceiling, wall, and appliances. The third and second floors, where our guest bedrooms are, have significant damages. The ceiling and walls will need to be extracted. The basement had two feet of standing water by the time it was over and will have significant repairs.”

Even though damage and repairs are still being assessed at the moment, it appears that repairs will take between three to four months before the house is operational again. The staff hopes to reopen areas of the house in phases when it is safe to do so. They want to make sure that families are safe and comfortable as they are caring for their children.

The McDonald House is accepting help from members of the community. “We are providing opportunities for individuals to come alongside and help at this time whether that is by making a financial donation, helping in terms of providing [Uber or Lyft] gift cards that will provide transportation to and from the hospital, grab and go meals and other things that we may need as the situation evolves,” said Ruth Anne Renaud, Vice President of Marketing & Communication.

If you would like to help, the staff suggests that you call the house, at 1-773-324-5437, to ask about specific needs for the day. The house is open between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to drop off food or other amenities that families will need. You can also visit the website, https://rmhccni.org/2019flood/, for more information to help.

hpherald@hpherald.com