My Housing Project

I’m passionate about many causes, from EB to accessibility. But today, I want to talk about housing. Housing as it relates to families with loved ones in hospital. It’s an area near and dear to me, and one that I have recently decided to do something about.

I was at a Jubliee Luncheon organized by David C. Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario in early September. An intimate group of guests was invited to share in a working lunch in honour of  Princess Sophie, Countess of Wessex. Each guest shared their stories and the causes nearest to them. Among fellow guests was Hélène Campbell with whom I discussed the challenges both our families faced trying to find accommodations while we were in hospital.

banner Private Luncheon

The Ronald McDonald Houses (RMH) are a brilliant residential refuge for parents and families of children who are in the hospital. It services families with children until the age of 18. So, by 19 years of age, parents of these young adults need to find different funding or centres to accommodate their housing needs.

When I was in my accident I was in a different country, and when Hélène had her surgery she was in a different province. So the onus was on our parents to find accommodations. My parents ended up at hotels and Hélène’s family relied on the generosity of friends homes. But if we were 18 years old of younger – I was 22 at the time of my accident and Helene was 19 at the time of her surgery – they would have been eligible to stay at Ronald McDonald Houses.

In fact I know a lot about the RMH in depth because my best friend, Devon Friedman, is the RMHC Manager for Toronto. When Devon got married, she had all of her bridesmaids and I volunteer at the House and make dinner for some families one evening. It was a wonderful contrast to the traditional bachelorette party and it really allowed her and us bridesmaids to feel like a team, both in supporting Devon leading up to her special day and in helping our community at large. Volunteering like this is thriving at its best: fostering stronger friendships and building better communities.

Melissa Thrives and Rick Hansen

I also shared another incredible experience with both McDonalds and Devon as we were both MedalBearers for the Rick Hansen 25th anniversary Man In Motion Tour. Devon ran with Rick Hansen’s personal Medal across her hometown of Toronto, and I walked with Rick Hansen’s personal medal across my hometown of Oakville. The Rick Hansen 25th Anniversary was an incredible experience, and it was certainly made more special by sharing it with my best friend. It allowed us to thrive individually and collectively and the memories will last a lifetime.

Ronald McDonald Houses are brillliant facilities, and I understand that each organization needs to have boundaries and specializations on what they can accomplish.

It is this which leads me to believe that there is a wonderful opportunity for an organization to pick up where Ronald McDOnald Houses left off and help young adults. Why not focus on young adults aged 19-30 years of age?

I believe in this idea so vitally that I am pursuing it at an academic level. I am currently working on my Master Research Paper at York University to graduate in Health Policy with a Masters degree in Critical Disability Studies. As I have completed all of my course work, I am focusing on my final paper, reminiscent of a thesis. I intend for this paper to serve as the foundation required to prove the need for such an organization, and to entice the Luncheon guests to commit to serving on its Committee.

I am committed that we thrive collectively and individually, help families thrive and help their young adults thrive as well. Here’s to making a difference!!


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