“Treat Trolley” offers meals and hope to families at Prisma Health Children’s Hospital

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Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 8:41 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - You may not think a granola bar or a sack lunch can bring hope.

But, the spirit behind an effort at Prisma Health Children’s Hospital in Columbia proves those small items make a big difference for families going through hard times.

Ronald McDonald House Charities serves up smiles and meals every day in several areas of Children’s Hospital: in the intensive care units for infants and children, a Family Room on the first floor and a hospitality cart they take door to door that they call the “Treat Trolley.” The effort has also expanded to Prisma Health Baptist Hospital and Lexington.

All of it is volunteer-based, the items are donated, and the cost is free. Liz Atkinson, of Ronald McDonald Charities showed us around the NICU waiting room at Prisma Health Children’s Hospital to give us a look at what is offered.

“We have fresh fruit. We have milk, yogurt, water in the refrigerator. And a lot of these items are donated.”The food station is an oasis for families who otherwise would not be able to leave their child’s side.”You have month-long stays here. So life has to go on,” Atkinson explains.

“When you’re out of work… not everybody’s on salary. A lot of time you’re not getting paid. You don’t have that extra money to stop at a restaurant. But to be able to grab a Chef Boyardee and heat it up… a granola bar, a milk… this is going to enable you to take care of your patient.”Graeme Moore’s son spent 40 nights in the NICU, born 10 weeks premature.”When you’re here, it’s a scary thing, Moore explains. “You’re focused on your child… you have a sick kid there. You’re not really thinking about yourself. You don’t want to leave. You don’t want to leave your kid a whole long time. So to have things like this, these refreshments and toiletries… the things they put out, close to where you have to be with your kid, it’s really helpful.”He was also surprised to learn the food and items were donated, free of charge.”I thought that was a hospital provided thing. When I found out it was a volunteer-based thing… that makes it even more special. To know there are people out there who don’t know you… don’t know your kids, but they’re here to help just out of the goodness of their heart, it’s heartwarming to know there are still good people in the world.”

But the kindness and hospitality doesn’t end there. Every morning and at lunchtime, volunteers with Ronald McDonald House Charities go door to door offering meals to families bedside with their children. Crystal Cole, of the Upstate says the meals are a true blessing. Her 12-year-old son Elijah has a genetic condition that causes tumors on his organs, a condition she says has no cure.

Since 2017, Cole says she and her son have stayed at the Ronald McDonald House approximately 70 times and have also endured many hospital stays.”The hospital only provides one meal a day. And a lot of times I have to stay by myself. My husband works,” Cole explains. “It’s very strenuous on us… I can’t leave him (Elijah). I can’t go to the cafeteria and leave him to get food.

So the Pack a Smile Program and everything the Family Room does… is a blessing to us it’s very helpful.

It’s an effort Atkinson says is truly gratifying.”We all feel good when we go home at the end of the day. We are usually pretty tired because we got a lot of steps in delivering all this. But you know you’ve done something to help the members of your community.”

Ronald McDonald House Charities is always looking for volunteers to help distribute meals and snacks. They also seek donations. For ways to help click here.

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